Of ICEEs, on their 50th and 59th Anniversaries

• April 4, 2017 3:29 pm


An ICEE is, among other things, high fructose corn syrup, water, citric acid, quillaia and yucca extracts, artificial flavor, sodium benzoate, and FD&C Red #40 or FD&C Red Blue #1 or FD&C Yellows #5 and #6, sometimes plus glyceryl abietate, brominated soybean oil (refined), beginning at approximately 24-26° F; it is cherry, white cherry, or cherry lime; or watermelon or cola or grape or green apple; lemon lime, lemonade, pink lemonade, raspberry lemonade, blue raspberry, strawberry, strawberry kiwi, boysenberry, piña colada, orange, orange dream, banana, or (alas) butter popcorn or around 150 other flavors; it is ICEE Points redeemable by mail order to 1205 S. Dupont Ave Ontario, CA 91761 during the ICEEversary for Icee Cups, ICEE Beanies, ICEE Beach Towels and Key Chains and T-Shirts, ICEE Blankets and Tin Signs and Duffel Bags, Can Coolers, Duffel Bags, Tin Signs, Hoodies, even the ICEE Snow Disc ("‘stuff' and graphics are subject to change," "Employees of The ICEE® Company and ICEE retailers are ineligible," "The ICEE Company reserves the right to substitute an item of equal or greater value"); it is 500 million drinks a year, enough to fill more than 140 Olympic-sized swimming pools or stretch 27,593 miles around the whole globe and then some, sold in malls, movie theaters, convenience stores, supermarkets, Burger Kings, Targets, Wawas, QuickCheks, Valeros, Rainforest Cafés in the United States, Canada, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East, China, Australia; it is Service Technicians and Combo Technicians and DOT Route Drivers in Baltimore, Tacoma, Salt Lake City, Fresno, Mobile, Morgantown, Portland, Port St. Lucie, Tulsa, Salem; it is ICEE Bear, 2015 winner of the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame Mascot of the Year Award; it is the ICEE Store APP for iPhone; it is an accident occasioned by the malfunctioning of a Kansas Dairy Queen Owner's fountain soda machine more than half a century ago, the brainchild of Omar Knedlik, the entrepreneur, and Ruth E. Taylor, who came up with the name ICEE and the never-changed icicle-laden stylized logo and the idea of a polar bear, and Lonnie Williams, who realized Taylor's concepts; it is the Breakout to Slurpee's Arkanoid and Alligator Ice's Block Breaker Deluxe 2; it is "America's Flavorite Frozen Beverage Since 1967"; it is, since 1988, a subsidiary of J & J Snack Foods, whose common stock is traded on the NASDAQ with the symbol JJSF. It is "Too Cool!"

What is the light that you see on the machine sometimes? It could mean the device is all out of ICEE syrup; it could also indicate the Defrost Cycle, "a necessary part of the process where the frozen ICEE is melted and then re-frozen so it will maintain its smooth, soft frozen texture." What are the top-selling flavors? Cherry, blue raspberry, cola (the first flavor). Can you rent ICEE machines or equipment or even buy them? No. Can you pay someone to dress up as the ICEE Bear and entertain your children at a birthday party or a bar mitzvah? No. Who decides what flavors are available at your local officially licensed ICEE retailer? The individual retailer, and if for some reason you're dissatisfied with the options, ICEE advises consumers to let "the store manager know which flavors you’d like to see them carry and hopefully they will order your favorite flavor." Where can you download ICEE wallpapers and play ICEE games, where can you "Wear the Bear" and "Share the Bear," where can you find Happy Valentine's Day ICEE coloring pages? At the online ICEE Fun Zone.

ICEE is not sugar-free. It probably never will be because "no sugar substitutes have been found that carry the same freezing properties as real sugar," nor, in all cases, is it caffeine-free. It is, however, gluten-free, peanut and peanut oil-free, and kosher. The Year of Our Lord MMXVII marks the 59th anniversary of Knedlik's discovery of ICEE technology and the golden jubilee of the ICEE company.

ICEE is a treat, a harbinger, a gateway drug. It tastes, as Eve Tushnet says of orange soda, "like colors rather than foods." It is calorie-dense, triglyceride-elevating. It is devoid of significant nutritional content. It contains, in one 32-oz. serving, 116 grams of sugar, almost eight heaping spoonfuls. It is tooth decay in a plastic cup. It is slurpable bliss. It costs $4.65 at most Landmark Cinema locations.

For the five-year-old at KMart in the mid-’90s ICEE is the only thing, not only in the store but in the universe. This is how he is supposed to feel. Consider the ICEE Bear in his dark sunglasses, sprawled across a tricolor landscape, like an exploding galaxy of Union Jacks; see him as he rides, as he floats above, his red and blue ICEE skateboard next to the incarnate ICEE and the animate © and the living slogan "COLDEST DRINK IN TOWN™," mounting aloft, bestriding the very heavens—stars and planets and moons, comets, asteroids, black holes, white holes, worm holes, dumb holes—without so much as spilling his Cherry Icee.

ICEEs are beautiful and a bit frightening.