Free cone day: Civil War history in ice cream?

Free cone day at Ben and Jerry's falls on the anniversary of the start of the Civil War. So what can free cone day tell us about how America has changed?

s70/ZUMA Press/Newscom/File
People get ice cream at Ben and Jerry's free cone day in St. Petersburg, Fla., in this 2007 file photo. This year free cone day falls on the same day as the 150-year anniversary of the first shots of the Civil War.

Ben and Jerry’s free cone day happens to fall this year on the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. And while the new flavors featured at the ice cream giveaway might not pay homage to America's values, exactly, they do offer some idea of how its tastes have evolved in 14 score and 10 years.

Apple Brown Betty and spoonbread? Make way for Late Night Snack, Bonnaroo Buzz, Clusterfluff!

The most blatantly American flavor of Ben and Jerry's four new offerings has to be Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream, which is vanilla ice cream with caramel swirls and fudge-covered pieces of waffle cones. The sardonic news host is a natural choice for an early 21st century ice cream flavor: a scoop on the news served up with biting sarcasm. The flavor has been sold previously by the pint, but it’s new to ice cream shops this year.

It's not the only new flavor inspired by a TV show host. Late Night Snack, named for the show “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” carries the message that in America, you can have it all. In one bite, the flavor answers a question experienced by many a late-night TV-watcher: Potato chips or ice cream? The flavor combines vanilla ice cream with salty caramel swirls and chunks of chocolate-covered potato chips.

Clusterfluff is a more intense take on the subject. In a nod to Ben and Jerry's Vermont roots, it uses a product of New England (marshmallow fluff), then combines it with that southern innovation, modern peanut butter. Is the Union saved?

Well, maybe not. The peanut butter ice cream, with caramel pieces and peanut butter and marshmallow swirls, is a flavor for lean times, when protein comes in jars because meat is too expensive. Anyone who isn't too proud for fluffernutter will enjoy a scoop of Clusterfluff.

The final of the four new flavors, Bonnaroo Buzz, throws a bone over the Mason-Dixon Line down to Tennessee. The coffee and malt ice cream, with pieces of toffee and swirls of whiskey caramel, is named for the Manchester, Tenn., annual music festival. The flavor isn’t technically new – it was made for the concert in a limited batch last summer and sold in shops afterward, but now it's back in some shops now and sold by the pint.

Ben and Jerry’s does have a fifth new flavor that’s steeped in North-South contention: Red Velvet Cake. The flavor is currently only available by the pint, and so it’s not served on Free Cone Day. The cake batter ice cream with cake chunks and cream cheese frosting is adapted from a recipe that Northerners and Southerners both claim. Red velvet cake is often seen as Southern cuisine, but it is rumored to have originated in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel.

In the 150 years since the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, Americans have settled many of their differences and come together for certain causes, like eating ice cream.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.