Many Jews enjoy eating different forms of cream. They often eat cream cheese (especially with bagels), sour cream (especially with borscht) and, of course, the ubiquitous, crowd-pleasing ice cream (especially for dessert at a bar/bar mitzvah). But even though many Jews love a frozen treat, is there anything inherently Jewish about ice cream? Is ice cream an important part of Jewish life? What is a more Jewish-sounding last name, Cohen or Cone?
It is reasonable to assume that during the 40 years in the desert, the Jewish people would have welcomed a scoop or two. They had manna every day, which apparently was very satisfying, but if ice cream had been invented back then, manna could have mimicked any flavor of ice cream imaginable. In fact, according to Rashi, manna tasted like whatever food each consumer desired. So, if a Jew desired a banana barge sundae, neapolitan or anything a la mode, then all that Jew had to do was think of it and let the manna do the rest. As an aside, the French expression “a la mode” literally means “in the fashion,” but in the culinary world has come to mean anything served with ice cream. Thus,“a la mode” should only be used in the context of food. It would not be appropriate or a good idea to deliver a newspaper, a baby or a eulogy a la mode; send someone an RSVP or a “cease and desist” letter a la mode; or perform a plastic surgery or military strike a la mode.
Ice cream is certainly not the only cream that Jews enjoy eating. For example, for most Jews, bagels and lox are just not the same without the undeniable and irreplaceable cream cheese, the quintessential spread for any self-respecting bagel-eating Jew. This, however, brings us to a really strange cream-related conundrum.For reasons that are less than apparent, scallion cream cheese is uber popular whereas scallion ice cream is virtually nonexistent. And you definitely will not find ice cream parlors offering scallions as a topping. Scallion sprinkles do not exist and neither do scallion cones. So why do cream cheese eaters love scallion but ice cream eaters shun it? Unclear, but there are other comparable conundrums in the world of food. For example, why are prune hamantaschen widely available while other prune-filled baked goods are few and far between?
One could argue ice cream could be more Jewish if the ice-cream sundae (the term “sundae” is a twist on the term “Sunday”) was instead referred to as an ice-cream “saturdae,” in honor of Shabbat. And yes, in honor of Shabbat HaGadol (the Shabbat before Passover), every ice-cream saturdae would feature a few extra scoops. And when Shabbat ends and folks recite Havdalah, they would feast on some special post-Shabbat ice cream called “heavenly havdalah hash.” On that note, here are some other Jewish-themed ice-cream flavors: knishes and cream, dulce, delatke, caramel, kugel, bubbie’s butter, pecan pistachio panim, rainbow rugelach, nutella nudnik, herring happiness, peanut butter bubbe-meise, coffee kneidlach, essen espresso, spumoni schmaltz, cookie dough dreck, cherry schmendrick, falafel and fudge, butterscotch boychik, peppermint pickles, marshmallow machatenesta, lemon lokshen, stracciatella shakshuka, and rocky road rabbi rum raisin Rebbe.
And here are some hypothetical names for Jewish ice-cream parlors: cones and kibitz, sprinkles and spiels, toppings and tsuris, dairy derec, frozen farbissoner, Carvel kvell milchig mensch, heimish Haagen-Daaz, bupkis-robbins, soft-serve schmooze, sorbet shtick and yenta yogurt.
Final thought: Spies like to snoop, the immoral like to stoop, old flowers like to droop and ice cream eaters like to scoop.
Yonatan Levi writes humor columns for the Cleveland Jewish News.