Everything Bagel Ice Cream, And What It Does To The Mind

I try to find the parallels between everything bagel flavored ice cream, ayahuasca, and condoms.

As a kid, I’d regularly hit Thrifty’s for a 35 cent scoop of mint chip, and finish eating it while riding home one-handed on my BMX.  When the occasion hit, our mom would take us to an ice cream parlor called Swensen’s. I call it a parlor because the decor and dimly lit atmosphere encouraged you to plop down in a cozy booth and wait for your scooper to deliver a perfect cone of bubble gum ice cream with a glass dish to collect your balls for later, maybe a banana split if you won the big game. It was an occasion - a social ice cream event like I assume one did at a 50’s malt shop. Everyone could let their guard down, get to licking, and talk about silly shit. It was the equivalent of having a fine Cuban after you did a great job at the Super Bowl versus sparking a Marlboro light in the car ride to work in the morning. 

Adults never stopped eating ice cream, they just started doing it by the pint instead of the cone, and more so behind closed doors. We treat ice cream like condoms; something we buy at the grocery store in a moment of weakness, either unabashedly giddy with anticipation, or cowering in a hoodie with your largest pair of sunglasses on. Either way, you’ll probably need one of those lighters too. Before you can finish an episode of Bling Empire, the plastic hymen between the pint lid and frozen cream lies strewn on the coffee table, no time for a waste bin in the heat of the moment. If you somehow err and pause to get off the couch to toss it, the trance-like state of pleasure may be broken. At the very least, your pint-partner will begin to consider whether or not you’re planning on taking a pneumatic nail gun to the back of their head.

“I don’t stop eating when I’m full, I stop eating when I hate myself.” - Louie C.K.

I return to the dark ritual of eating alone mainly because of this trance. I don’t mean pulling up at the restaurant bar to pick at a cheeseburger between the sports section and the weather. I mean; the front door is double bolted, sweatpants on, Alexa off, about to watch Julie & Julia for the 7th time with a brick of cheddar and a steak knife. We know this isn’t nourishing behavior, but for those few hours, the thoughtlessness is all-consuming. I set these horizontal feeding sessions up with the preservation of this trance in mind. Backup La Croix can be found at arm’s length, phone charging- everything but a catheter in place. The same way one might set up a powerful hallucinogenic drug experience, or a marathon masturbation session - the prep is as important as the act itself. This brings me to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream.

Jeni’s everything bagel flavored ice cream flavor isn’t as fun to enjoy alone - it’s a flavor that I’m much less likely to see the bottom of than say, a pint of Salted Peanut Butter with Chocolate Flecks. It feels like a challenging challenge, a dairy-based tarot card reading, an edible episode of Criss Angel’s Mindfreak. We’ve been stuck at home for a year, eating soothingly-flavored ice cream all by ourselves, hiding the spent pints in our trash cans, maybe in a bag so nobody sees.  Like smoking oxycontin in your garage; it’s dark, it’s lonely, and we know we should stop but we can’t.  Everything Bagel is more of social activity, a virtual Swensen’s, an experience that demands your presence. 

Like so many of these “twisted flavor combinations,” everything bagel flavored ice cream doesn’t feel like it was created by an advertising agency or in an annual marketing plan. 

Garlic and onion are not soothing flavors of ice cream. After taking your first spoonful you’ll grimace, you’ll indicate disgust, your pupils will dilate, you’ll forget what’s on TV for a moment. You will go through every conceivable thought about ice cream you’ve ever conceived. You’ll run through the mental Rolodex of jiu-jitsu holds your brain has used over the years to compartmentalize and critique flavor experiences, and Everything Bagel will wiggle out of each one like a rainbow trout swimming in coconut oil. You’ll need to share this experience with others. You’ll want to create a ceremony out of it, you’ll want to create an entire night out of it. You’ll consider a beverage pairing for the occasion. You’ll sit around with your pandemic pod people to share spoons. You’ll schedule a zoom meeting with family members across the country to taste it together, you’ll want to see what grandma or the newborn thinks of it. 

It’s a relatively accessible, at-home version of a Michelin restaurant eureka moment. Cotton candy that tastes like Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a simple fried egg on a Heath Ceramic, but it’s actually like, “chocolate cake” when you crack open the yolk. These culinary mindfucks rely on tweezer-plating, table drama, rudimentary whimsy, chef-driven arrogance, and paying so much money for a ticket to the show that you have to like it; the Hamilton Effect. Jeni went ahead and said hey, grab any Ikea spoon in your shitty one-bedroom and prepare to get tongue fucked from the back. When you have your circuits bent in such a way, you want to share your experiences with others. This applies to sex, food, and drugs - the three coolest highs. And if people chase highs to know what it feels like to almost die, then eating Everything Bagel makes you feel like you almost have Alzheimer’s disease. 

If traditionally delicious ice cream flavors like Chunky Monkey or Butter Pecan are like heroin or cocaine, then Everything Bagel is like ayahuasca. Much like a chocolate chip, the appeal of heroin or cocaine are easy to understand immediately. You take it, and you feel how you’re going to feel in just a few seconds. But ayahuasca is a challenging high. You have to set aside time on your calendar, you have to seek it out in unconventional places, and sometimes you have to drive all the way to Calabasas. You have to find a trustworthy shaman, a spirit guide, or at the very least a guy who can get you some ayahuasca. You usually do it with other people. You share your experiences with anyone who will listen - you talk about how you felt in the moment, how you wept, writhed, and your virtuous purging.  You come face-to-face with your inner demons, your repressed memories come bursting out of your skull like the Kool-Aid man, you hug your new friends when it’s done, you rest, you recharge. You write a blog post about it, you work it into conversation with your pilates instructor, you’re proud of yourself, you wonder if you’ll ever be able to go through that experience again.

On heroin, you lean back and nod off. You feel “nummy.” The repressed memories you keep locked away in the basement of your mind are slingshotted to a neighboring galaxy. Your shaman has no soul, you rarely do it with a group of people, you don’t want to share it, you will never tell your Pilates instructor about it, you’ll wonder how long you’re going to have to wait until you’ll be able to experience that again. The only thing it shares in common with ayahuasca is you’ll sometimes have to drive all the way to Calabasas to get it.

I’ve never done it, but I assume you ingest ayahuasca because you want to expand your mind, not coddle it. The true path to upgrading your brain is by smashing your current model, not trading it in for credit towards a new one, void the warranty. I’m glad that Jeni grabbed me by the lapels and shook the shit out of me (and I don’t mean shook as in “scared.”) I mean shaken like a head of garlic between two mixing bowls to get the skins off. It’s unnecessarily loud, it’s a ridiculous spectacle, but it gets the skins off.