The Ice Cream Avalanche Connection

Your ice cream is remarkably similar to an avalanche.

As an unrepentant fan of ice cream, I’m a sucker for movies that have ice cream scenes. It doesn’t matter if the film is Oscar-worthy or a complete flop, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for it.

One of my favorite ice cream movie scenes is in Albert Brooks’ movie Mother. Albert Brooks’ character is in his mom’s kitchen, and she offers him sherbet. He is immediately suspicious. As she opens the carton, we see that the two thirds left is fairly unappealing. Brook’s character comments that it’s colorless which his mother replies, “look under the protective ice.” She then forces a spoonful into her son’s mouth. He reacts with disgust and says, “this is horribly old” and “tastes like an orange foot.”

Brook's reaction to old ice cream. Warning: There are a couple of PG-13 words in this clip.

There are a couple of reasons I really love this scene. One, it’s funny. Second, we’ve all been there. We’ve all experienced the “protective ice” and “old taste” of a carton of ice cream that’s been in the freezer too long. The good news is, scientists are working hard to solve this problem.

Researchers from Nestle have turned to the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research (SLF) in Switzerland to find a way to expand the lifespan of ice cream. The SLF has a special  x-ray machine they use to study ice crystals which helped Nestle’s scientists make some interesting discoveries.

That “protective ice” Albert Brooks’ mother mentioned occurs when the ice separates from the cream and sugar. The old taste is due to the unstable properties of ice cream. It just takes minor temperature fluctuations in your freezer for the ice cream to melt and then freeze causing it to lose water and air. Hence, that old taste.

I have to admit, I’m of two minds on this. On one hand, I’m all for improving the quality of ice cream. However, if not for ice cream’s imperfections, we would never have had that great scene from Mother.

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