If you want to learn a lot about a stranger, observe how and what he orders in an ice cream shop. Does he order with blinders on, going straight for a safe flavor? (Yawn.) Does she sample aimlessly, holding up the line, until his taste buds are so fatigued he’s forced to make a haphazard choice? (Irritating.) Does he pick an unusual flavor to sample, and then order it whether he truly likes it or not out of some misguided sense of obligation or fear of castigation? (Wuss.) Does she boldly and decisively pick the craziest ice cream flavor on the menu WITHOUT requesting a taste? The latter, for me, is the way to go.
If there is any time to take risks, I’d say it’s when ordering ice cream. My philosophy is that I can get chocolate or vanilla in the grocery aisle. Why not forsake the quotidian and give your palate a thrill with something unusual, inventive, and/or creative? Of course, I’m the person who made my vacation plans last year around visiting Rococo Artisan Ice Cream so that I could sample the likes of such culinary innovations as Red Beets and Tarragon with Orange Zest, Persian Love Cake, and Curry Carrot. I’m also someone who finds the idea of OddFellows Ice Cream co-founder Sam Mason’s vegetal ice creams winsome.
And if you need convincing, it looks like modern psychology supports my inclination. As Eater explains in a recent story about unusual ice cream flavors, “brief sensation seeking” is a way for people to assume a small amount of risk safely. What is more is that the proliferation of less conventional flavors may be a return to form for ice cream, as early recipes included such savory noteworthies as asparagus, brown bread, truffle, and oyster ice creams.
Exploration is not only good for the consumer’s palate: It also helps creameries stand out from the pack and keeps them on their toes. As Jake Godsby, co-owner of San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe, told Eater, “We’ve never spent a dime on marketing. It helps us get noticed for sure.”
So next time you’re out ordering an ice cream cone, do me a favor: ditch the rocky road and go for the durian.