Ben and Jerry’s, the Way We Were

The Ben and Jerry’s cookbook, published in 1987

When I was young, I shared pints of Cherry Garcia with my father.  It was his favorite flavor, and mine.  In 1991, I walked to my neighborhood country store with my siblings and cousins to buy pints of the first-ever Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream on the day it was released.  We thought we’d died and gone to heaven.  In high school, I worked at the Ben & Jerry’s scoop shop in a nearby college town.  My coworkers and I played Phish on the sound system and whipped up White Blazes for local through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

I grew up in Vermont.  Does that go without saying?

I remember when Steven Tyler–yes, as in Aerosmith–came into the shop one summer evening and asked me if we had any sugar-free ice cream.  I gave him the standard, “nope, we’re all natural around here, so Ben & Jerry don’t do sugar-free.”  He thanked me and left.  My coworkers and I proceeded to have an epic freak out.  We were teenagers.  The resulting conversation went something like: “Oh my God!  Oh my God!  That was, like, Steven Tyler!  I’m, like, totally freaking out!  Oh my God!!!!”  Steven Tyler returned about an hour later with a small army of very posh friends and at least a couple of body guards–and a swarm of people who had spotted him outside.  He ordered three scoops of Cherry Garcia.  I never figured out the solo trip to ask the sugar-free question.

I also remember celebrating the release of Phish Food with appropriately psychedelic tie-dyed shirts and a memorized phrase: “it’s milk chocolate ice cream with a caramel swirl, a marshmallow swirl, and little fudge fish.”  In fact, we scoopers memorized the contents of all 36 euphoric flavors.  Chubby Hubby was my favorite to recite: Vanilla malt ice cream with a fudge swirl, a peanut butter swirl, and chocolate-covered peanut-butter-filled pretzels.  I always got tongue-tied over Wavy Gravy: a cashew, caramel, brazil nut ice cream with a chocolate-hazelnut fudge swirl and roasted almonds.

It was the age of Rainforest Crunch, White Russian, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Dough, Purple Passion Fruit, Dastardly Mash, Deep Dark Chocolate, Holy Cannoli, From Russia with Buzz, Cool Britannia, Reverse Chocolate Chunk, Vanilla Chocolate Chunk, Coffee Heath Toffee Crunch, Vanilla Heath Toffee Crunch, Mint Chocolate Cookie, Praline Pecan, Peach Melba, and countless other flavors now resting in peace in the Flavor Graveyard.  Speaking of peace, it was also the age of Peace Pops.

It was the time when you could only get all 36 euphoric flavors at a scoop shop.  That’s what it was all about: neighborhood ice cream shops with Woody Jackson cows painted on the walls and bins full of super premium ice cream in the most inventive flavors.  Each scoop shop was modeled after the original in Burlington, Vermont where Ben and Jerry whipped up small batches of premium sweet cream ice cream for friends, neighbors, and fans.  A postcard from fans in Maine suggested Cherry Garcia.  A suggestion on the Burlington flavor idea board gave birth to Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  It was ice cream with a purpose: creating community, working together for peace, protecting the natural world.  Small batches and small shops with a global consciousness.

It was the hippie counterculture scooped up and served with a spoon.  And it was groovy, man.

Woody Jackson cows, image credit: Woody Jackson

This was all in the Ben & Jerry’s of old.  The way we were.  Before retirement.  Ben & Jerry certainly deserve to retire, and change was apparently inevitable.  But when Unilever bought the company in 2001, everything started to change.  Scoop shops are now a rare thing.  The one where I worked is gone.  Most of them are, in fact, and the ones that remain carry only a handful of flavors.  They’re practically a tourist attraction, a museum-like ode to the Ben & Jerry’s of old.  Now, Ben & Jerry’s is a company of pints and shock-value, pop culture flavors.  Schweddy Balls is funny, but that’s about it.

Ah, well.  At least I can still get my Cherry Garcia.

If you, like me, long not just for the Ben & Jerry’s ice creams of yesteryear, but also the quirky, groovy, peace-and-love vibe, then go out and get yourself a copy of the Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Cookbook.  I found one several months ago in a little country store in Vermont.  It cost all of $8.  I can’t even get two pints of ice cream for $8!  What a deal.

The cookbook was published in 1987 and has not been updated.  This is its finest quality.  It was written by Ben and Jerry themselves when they were still trying to sell their ice creams at trade shows and the only folks who got to eat their creations were those lucky souls living in Burlington.

In addition to telling the story of the company, the book includes a whole host of recipes and their signature, hand-drawn, brightly colored illustrations.  It’s fun, entertaining, and filled with everything you want it to have.  It starts with a recipe for their sweet cream base and things just get more delicious from there.  The base really and truly tastes just like Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.  They weren’t apparently worried about keeping their trade secrets to themselves.  They wanted to share the love, and I thank them.

So far, I’ve only made the strawberry ice cream.  But I can’t wait to try making New York Super Fudge Chunk, Coffee Heath Toffee Crunch, Mint Chocolate Cookie, and, of course, Cherry Garcia.  They even include recipes for their cookies and brownies.  This makes Chocolate Fudge Brownie a delightfully promising possibility.  Whenever I long for a scoop shop of old, I just get out this book, thumb through the pages, and smile.

In short, this cookbook makes me very, very happy.

Peace, love, and ice cream.

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2 thoughts on “Ben and Jerry’s, the Way We Were

    • It also took me a long time to try any of the recipes. For some reason, my ice cream maker always sits in my freezer ready to go, but I rarely use it. When I do, I always vow to make ice cream more often. Then I don’t. But I have this book as much for the solace and joy of the Ben and Jerry’s I knew as for the recipes inside. This said, try the strawberry ice cream recipe. It’s amazing.

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