Can’t buy happiness — so get ice cream

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice cream, which is basically the same thing.” There are few things that are better on a hot summer day than delicious ice cream to bring a smile to your face. Ice cream is so special, it even has its own National Month and National day to recognize and celebrate it.

July is National Ice Cream Month and National Ice Cream Day is always the third Sunday in July, which this year falls on July 21.

Last week, my family received our monthly newsletter for our dairy cooperative (the company we sell our milk to) and they informed us that the first flavor of ice cream recorded was called “whale vomit.” Appetizing, I know. The first recorded recipe, written in the 1660s, called for cream, sugar, orange flower water and ambergris, also known as whale vomit.

According to “Gastropod”, a podcast about food science and history, the first known recipe for ice cream was written by English noblewoman, Lady Anne Fanshawe. In place of salt, which is used to lower the freezing temperature of the cream, Fanshawe used chunks of ambergris to help freeze and flavor this dairy treat. However, the briny ingredient has an unusual origin.

Produced by sperm whales, ambergris can be found floating atop the ocean, washed ashore or within the abdomens of the oceanic mammals. Consuming a heavy diet of giant squids, the whales are unable to digest the bone-like squid beaks. Traveling down the whale’s intestines, the beak gathers bile and hardens to form a large mass.

Eventually, the whale will expel the mass, which will then float to the top of the ocean to cure in the salt and the sun. The salt obtained from this process can then be used to help freeze and flavor the cream. No longer used for ice cream (thank goodness!) ambergris is now more commonly found in expensive perfumes due to its “sweet and woody” odor.

If whale vomit ice cream is not your flavor of choice, celebrate National Ice Cream Month this year by dishing up one of America’s top 10 favorite ice cream flavors according to the International Dairy Foods Association.

The top 10 ice cream flavors in the U.S. are: Vanilla, Chocolate, Cookies ‘n Cream, Mint Chocolate Chip, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Buttered Pecan, Cookie Dough, Strawberry, Moose Tracks and Neapolitan. Another fun ice cream tidbit is that my Alma mater, South Dakota State University, created cookies n’ cream ice cream. We learned that fact on the first day of class with the head of the Dairy Science Department as our instructor.

Back in 1979, cookies ‘n cream was invented by the dairy plant on the campus. Since that time, the dairy science program has grown along with the memories made.

“Ice cream is a piece of what you see here, but it’s also the program. The program, as a whole, dairy manufacturing, dairy production, food science, you look at the students and what they do, the students what they do during school and here after graduation, they are leading the industry,” Vikram Mistry recently said, who is the Head of the Dairy and Food Science Department and a favorite former teacher of mine.

The three people credited with creating Cookies ’n Cream are dairy plant manager, Shirley Seas, and dairy science students, Joe Leedom and Joe Van Treeck.

In 2013, the flavor was named best ice cream treat in South Dakota by Food Network Magazine. While money can’t buy happiness, everyday is a great day to celebrate ice cream. It’s nice to give ice cream the attention it deserves and scoop up a little happiness! Enjoy National Ice Cream Month!

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