Is it ice cream?

In the upstairs ice cream stand, we sell a small variety of ice cream products. Aside from chocolate, vanilla, and black and tan ice cream, we also sell ice cream sandwiches, chocolate chip cookie sandwiches, popsicles, Choco Tacos, Sour Patch Kids, and Swedish fish.  There is one other item that we sell in the upstairs ice cream stand that causes customers quite a bit of confusion: Dippin’ Dots.

Dippin’ Dots are tiny balls of ice cream that are basically flash frozen using liquid nitrogen and then kept at a much colder temperature than regular ice cream.  The freezer we keep the Dippin’ Dots in is typically kept at -39 degrees.  When they were first created they were marketed as “the ice cream of the future.”  They’ve been around for a few years now and there are still lots of people who get confused by them.

The main thing that confuses people is whether or not they are actually ice cream.  I guess I can understand this confusion.  When you think of ice cream, you don’t imagine tiny, round balls that look more like small pebbles than anything else.  Most people think of scoops of ice cream or a cone of soft serve like what you get at Dairy Queen.  Dipping’ Dots, on the other hand, look nothing like your typical dessert.  The best way I can describe the way they look would be to say they almost look like freeze-dried food; something you would eat in space – only they taste much better.

My favorite part about selling Dippin’ Dots is listening to people try to order them.  I’m not sure which part of Dippin’ Dots is so hard to say, but we have heard a wide range of different pronunciations and all together wrong names over the years.  People have asked for the pebbles, the balls, dots, dip dots, dippy dots, and, my personal favorite, dippity dots.  The final pronunciation was a true test for Ariane and me.  It took everything we had to not start laughing, especially when the customer kept repeating herself.

I’m not exactly sure where the name confusion comes from. The sign for the Dippin’ Dots is on the wall of the stand, directly behind the register. It is a big, blue sign that says Dippin’ Dots in big letters across the top – the kind that’s hard to miss. What’s even more confusing is that most people notice the sign, but instead of reading it they assume it is a list of ice cream flavors. While it is a list of flavors, it is not the ice cream they think it is.

I’ve had the privilege to sell this frozen novelty for the past three years and I still hear new interpretations of the name every now and then. After trying to explain exactly what Dippin’ Dots are for the last few summers, I think I finally landed on the best description: it’s ice cream frozen into dots.

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