Why Wacky Ice Cream Flavors (Chorizo? Poutine?) Are the New Normal

Why do we seek out oddities, when the flavors we already have — including chocolate chip and mint chip, cookies 'n' cream, and fudge ripple — are so delicious? Here’s the scoop.
Assorted ice cream

Assorted ice cream

Remember when ice cream came in basically three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and strawberry? At a certain point, the options grew to include at least 31. But even those of us who favor flavors like rocky road, pralines and cream, and Jamoca Almond Fudge probably never imagined a world in which foie gras, bacon, chorizo, salt and pepper, and durian-banana ice creams were a thing.

Yet here we are in a world of ice cream flavors that are — shall we say? — unusual. Why do we seek out such oddities, when the flavors we already have — including chocolate chip and mint chip, cookies 'n' cream, and fudge ripple — are so delicious?

Eater has taken a look at the wacky-ice-cream-flavor trend. Here are a few takeaways:

1.  Weird flavors are actually not such a new thing. Historians have found 18th century ice cream recipes for flavors including raspberry and apricot as well as coffee, tea, pistachio, Parmesan and chocolate, which, unlike the chocolate we eat today, may have been “cayenne spicy.” There’s even documentation from Colonial times for an oyster ice cream. “Essentially it was frozen oyster chowder,” Robert Brantley, a journeyman at Colonial Williamsburg’s Historic Foodways, said. “They served it unsweetened, with the oysters strained out.” And you thought that scoop of caramel balsamic swirl you ate last night was pushing it.

2.  There’s a psychological explanation. People are primed to seek out new and different flavors because it’s a safe risk. “Psychologists call this phenomenon ‘brief sensation seeking,’ and while it's most often applied to the pleasure gained from eating spicy foods, it can also be used to explain why customers keep coming back to creameries,” Eater Detroit editor Brenna Houck wrote. Plus, ice cream parlors traditionally let you sample a flavor before committing to a whole scoop, which makes trying an unusual flavor even less risky — and potentially more rewarding.

3.  It’s a good way to stand out from the crowd. Having an unusual flavor helps an ice cream parlor capture attention — from the press and customers alike. "We've never spent a dime on marketing," Jake Godsby, co-owner of creative San Francisco ice creamery Humphry Slocombe, told Eater. "It helps us get noticed for sure."

In the mood to make your own nontraditional ice cream at home? Here are a few unusual — and unusually addictive — recipes to try.

Photo courtesy of iStock

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