Rate My Ice!

posted in: Sicky, Tips 22
This ice has potential. But only if it melts down. Photo: Achim Schleuning via Wikipedia.
This ice has potential. But only if it melts down. Photo: Achim Schleuning via Wikipedia.


A couple years ago, I wrote about how I don’t freak out if I leave out a pot of soup overnight, how I’ll just shrug and stick it in the fridge and make sure I heat it up extra hot next time. I made sure to mention that there are strict limits to this “eh, whatever” kitchen rule and to never be afraid to come over for dinner, but a lot of you still thought I was weird.

This post is way weirder. But I’m going to write it because walking home from the library, I laughed out loud to myself just thinking about it — which was also weird, of course, but fun for the guys who hang out in the park by the library who saw me laughing to myself.

The precipitous decline in my hemogoblins over the past few months has, as I’ve mentioned, led to a steep increase in my ice consumption. As a number of you have so astutely pointed out,  this ice-eating is a symptom called “pica.” Pica is “a tendency or craving to eat substances other than normal food, such as clay, plaster, or ashes, occurring during childhood or pregnancy or as a symptom of disease.”

There are many things to be grateful for: Not craving a glass of ashes or plaster is at the top of my list right now.

Ah, but frozen water counts as non-normal food and as my picamarades know, when you’ve got anemia and pica is upon you, nothing tastes as good as a big cup of really good ice. And you’d better believe that there’s good ice and less-good ice. There’s bad ice (e.g., cubes too large, over-frozen, etc.) There’s acceptable ice. There’s even ideal ice. As an almost compulsive ice-eater, I have become an ice connoisseur and I would like to now review some of the ice that I have sampled lately.

Though this is silly, I assure you: I devote a good deal of time these days to ice procurement, consumption, and evaluation. It’s unsettling to me how excited I am to write these ice reviews. But here we go.

Note: Ice evaluated on a scale of 1-5 on texture, flavor, melting rate, and ease of obtaining. All locations are in the Loop or South Loop of Chicago. In the case of chain stores, the management cannot guarantee quality/consistency. 

My Condo: 4.5
My ice maker is broken (oh, the irony) but I have four ice trays that are awesome if I only fill them up halfway. If I only fill them halfway, when I pull a tray out, the ice gets melty in the trays and it’s really chewy. Picking ice cubes out of the tray like that feels sort of like eating a box of chocolates.

Hilton Hotel Cafe: 3.7
I sometimes take a shortcut through the Hilton if it’s cold or rainy and the cafe near the lobby has a self-serve soda machine: total score. I’ve taken a big plastic cup over there on several occasions for the semi-crushed, fresh-tasting ice, but I can’t get cocky. The lady behind the counter gave me the stink-eye the other day.

Pret-a-Manger, Michigan and Monroe: 4.7
This big-city chain cafe has the best ice ever. It’s thin. It’s crispy. It’s crunchy. The cups are big. I try to scam two full cups of ice from the folks behind the counter when I buy a can of Diet Coke but sometimes they say they have to charge me for a large beverage if I want one. If I’m feelin’ flush, I’ll do it. (Q: Has anyone ever planned a heist of an ice machine? Call me.)

Starbucks (Any location): 3.1
Starbucks ice is okay in a pinch, but it’s too hard. And you often get big bars of ice that haven’t separated into cubes. Do you know what I mean? I hate that. My hemogoblins hate it when that happens.

That One Falafel Place on Wabash: 4.1
An upset! This is almost as good as the crushed, almost snow cone ice that you get at a Sonic. (Now there’s some great ice — alas, no Sonics in the Loop.) Anyway, I like this place’s ice better than the shwarma.

7-Eleven on my block: 4.0
The guys who work there are very sweet and rarely charge me for a refill. They may be concerned.

I Eat Ice: One Anemic’s Story

posted in: Day In The Life 3
Though ice wins in the end, I have a difficult time choosing what I want most in this picture: flowers, adorable sugar bowl, espresso, or perfect ice.
I have a difficult time choosing what I want most in this picture: flowers, adorable sugar bowl, espresso, or perfectly-sized ice. Wait, no: ice by a mile. Image: Wikipedia.

There are 400 different strains of anemia and they are on a scale of really bad to less-bad in terms of symptoms, long-lasting effects, seriousness, upkeep, etc. I have iron-deficiency anemia. This affects 7% of American women. It’s so nice to be so special.

The strain I’ve got produces an odd behavior that could be much, much odder: pica. Pica is compulsively craving and eating non-food items for longer than a month or so. People with pica have been known to eat clay, ashes, dirt, sand, metal, and all variety of things you are definitely not supposed to eat. And not only do these folks eat these things, they crave them. They seriously think to themselves, “Man, I could really go for some gravel right now.” It’s not so strange to me, actually. Because 44% of the people with my strain of anemia have the same desires, except our pica makes us want to eat ice. There’s a name for this and it’s pagophagia, the compulsive desire to eat ice.

I buy huge bags of ice when I go for groceries. I have a huge bag of ice in my freezer right now because I finished the other bag last night. I’d say I go through a frat party-sized bag of ice every three days. Boy, do I love ice. I love to fill a glass with cubes and put a little liquid in there and then ca-runch as I write and sew and so on. The satisfaction I get from eating ice is impossible to explain. I just like it. And I’m careful: I don’t crack through glass after glass with huge chomps. It’s kind of a suck-n-gently grate kind of thing. (I’ve just realized that fellow ice-eaters would totally love to jam on the kinds of ice we like best, the best places to get great ice, and our methods of chewing.)

Why do iron-deficient people do this? The Mayo Clinic says it may have something to do with inflammation in the mouth (I feel nothing of the kind, but what do I know about my mouth?) but no one knows a thing and everyone’s willing to admit that. Pagophagia is straight up weird. It would be nice to hear that from your doctor.

I share my pagophagia in hopes that it will confirm for someone clicking around the Internet with a Big Gulp cup of ice that yes, this is a thing, and no, you’re not the only one. The discovery here is similar to my discovery that my fear of ferns is a real phobia shared with one of the most important figures of the 20th century.

People are so weird.