Ben and Jerry's

If you can't take the civic puns, stay out of the freezer section.

Some cities were made for an ice cream flavor. One of the District of Columbia's nicknames, for example, is Chocolate City, which already sounds like some kind of sweet treat. In 2006, while hosting the White House Correspondents Dinner, Stephen Colbert took this idea to its most delicious conclusion: "The chocolate city with a marshmallow center and a graham-cracker crust of corruption." Mmm.

So Ben and Jerry's, with their new "City Churned" campaign, had plenty of material to work with. But this is the age of corporate social media engagement, of data collection, of taking things directly to the people, so instead of just deciding what kind of flavor a city is, the company asked around.

In D.C., New York, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, residents have four more days to make decisions like, Cookie dough or graham crackers? Chocolate or vanilla? Coffee or cinnamon? They can also support a handful of local ingredients, like New York's Sixpoint beer, or San Francisco's Tcho Chocolate.

But here's the thing about making a good flavor of ice cream: it's not just a series of independent, binary choices. It's more like assembling a basketball team. Are brownies and pretzels great players? Sure. But it's their chemistry that counts.

Weirder still, many choices aren't entirely up to city residents. In San Francisco, every fixed-gear bike spotted in the Mission is a vote for coffee, while each free-wheel bike is a vote for cinnamon. Over in New York, on-time 4/5/6 trains at Grand Central Station weigh towards caramel, while 1/2/3 trains at Times Square count for waffle cone. What is an on-time subway train, anyway? (You can also vote online.)

The result of all this is likely to be some civic hodgepodge of ice cream. It's unclear if these flavors will ever be widely distributed. Judging by their composition so far, I'd wager they won't. Let's hope the inevitable pun-based names are least decent.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Videos

    5 Ways to Seriously Battle Traffic

    So long as cars are among us, road pricing, ramp meters, diamond-shaped intersections can mitigate horrendous commutes, a new video explains.

  2. Design

    The Rivers of the U.S., Collected Into a Nifty Subway Map

    A designer who spent his youth floating on rafts has conjured up a delightful transit guide to America’s waterways.

  3. An empty storefront on a sidewalk with a "retail space for lease" sign in the window
    Life

    How Cities Can Save Small Shops

    Some places are already taking action, but New York City is lagging behind. Here’s a blueprint for keeping local retail healthy.

  4. Transportation

    5 Reasons to Be Wary of Elon Musk's Hyperloop

    High-speed vactrains might be the ticket for a Martian colony. As a practical transit investment for Earth, the technology has a long way to go.

  5. An illustration of a grid of canned food
    Equity

    What's the Matter With Little Free Food Pantries?

    They highlight food insecurity, without doing much to take a bite out of it.