I bought some Breyer’s over the weekend, thinking I was buying ice cream. If you have considered yourself a fan of Breyer’s ice cream but haven’t had any in the past year, I hope you’re sitting down:
Breyer’s ice cream is extremely dead. Long live Breyer’s ice cream.
I don’t get too worked up when a consumer product I like goes away. It’s a product, after all, and there are so many of those. A lipstick shade, a floor wax, a car’s make or model — “nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.”* One must always look on the bright side: you might discover the new shade, the new wax, the new version of the old car is way better. Consider the postage stamp. The sticker-version replaced the older, wetter, “lick me” kind and I think we can all agree life is much better, now
This is not the case with the “new” Breyer’s. A little over a year ago, so I’ve learned, they changed their recipe. The milk, cream, fruit, salt, and dash of guar gum (or whatever) that used to make up their delicious ice cream is long gone. In the place of those sugary and fattening — but recognizable — ingredients, on the back of the Butter Pecan container I found the ingredients to be:
“Milk, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Butter Pecans (Pecans, Butter, Cottonseed Oil, Butter (Cream, Salt), Salt], Cream, Whey, Mono and Diglycerides, Salt, Carob Bean Gum, Guar Gum, Natural Flavors, Carrageenan, Lactase Enzyme, Annatto (For Color), Vitamin A Palmitate, Tara Gum.”
Whatever those ingredients in those amount make, it was inedible. I opened the little pint and started to dig in but something was way wrong. Why did it taste…whipped? What was the weird foam-like quality? I looked at the container and spied the truth: I had purchased a “frozen dairy dessert.” Breyer’s is no longer ice cream and I have no qualms about advising you to avoid this brand like the plague. I actually threw it away and I really, really like frozen things that have sugar in them, so that’s saying something. Besides, “Palmitate” sounds like “palpate” and I don’t want that word near my dessert, whatever it’s made of.
At my friend Sarah’s house growing up, there was a candy drawer. And an entire, unlocked drawer that was perpetually stocked with candy was the most astonishing and marvelous thing I had ever considered. There were SweetTarts in there, mini-Hershey’s, Bazooka Joe, lollipops; this was no elderly auntie’s candy dish that might contain a half-pack of Trident or a handful of ancient fireballs. This was a good drawer. Incredibly enough, the kids in that house never really cared that much about it (at least, not as much as I did) precisely because it wasn’t that big of a deal. “Oh, right,” they’d reply, bored in response to my excited inquiries every time I was over, “the candy drawer. Let’s go outside.”
In my family, our treat was ice cream and we usually had some in-house. Maybe Sarah and her siblings were as impressed/enthralled by our freezer as I was about their candy store, I’m not sure. But even if we didn’t view ice cream as being like, a huge wow, there was a hierarchy, an A-list, B-list, and C-list of ice creams and we knew what was what: Blue Bunny was standard, not that great, but better than nothing. Orange Sherbet? Meh, but I’ll have some. We’d dish it up out of a big plastic bucket and eat it while watching Tiny Toons. Then there was the better stuff, which was probably a gallon of Mint Chip or Peppermint Stick — Anderson Erickson, most likely, a Midwest dairy brand.
But Breyer’s, man! Breyer’s was like, Mom’s favorite. It was more expensive. The carton was fancy. It had black on the packaging! How cool was that?? And the vanilla bean flecks? It was from another planet, that ice cream, and it tasted so amazing. I’d go so far as to say that I first understood vanilla, like as a concept and flavor, when I had a spoonful of Breyer’s Real Vanilla Ice Cream in my mouth the first time.
I’m reading Michael Moss’s Salt Sugar Fat: How The Food Giants Hooked Us, which won the Pulitzer and is sickening. The big companies that own the big brands, they will do anything to make a product cheaper, faster, and more efficient for them in terms of ingredients and resources. It’s bad. It’s bad like “frozen dairy dessert” bad. It’s inedible.
This summer, I’m going to buy ice cream that is made locally. There are a lot of places I can do that in New York City. It’s just something on my list.
*Why, yes that is a Kansas reference to “Dust In The Wind.”