Sunday, October 05, 2008

Purpose of Ice Cream

The Consumer Perspective

Loquacist: "They should make ice cream so hard to dig out of the container that you actually end up burning more calories digging it out than you get by eating it." Texas Big Hair: "But that defeats the purpose of ice cream."

Ice-Cream Advice Tips "The purpose of ice-cream is to gorge upon it."

The Provider Perspective

The concept of pleasure food is that the psychological value of the food is more significant than its nutritional value.

The eminent psychologist Isabel Menzies Lyth once wrote a paper called The Development of Ice-Cream as Food, in which she discussed the unconscious meaning of ice-cream. Did you think it was a coincidence or accident that ice-cream, which Menzies Lyth described as "'the pleasure food par excellence", is commonly served in small breast-shaped lumps?

At the time of the original study, few households had domestic refrigerators, which meant that ice-cream was an expensive and impractical substitute for custard. The focus of the study therefore shifted to canteens, especially in hospitals where consumers (nursing staff as well as patients) were often subject to unusually high levels of anxiety and were therefore thought to be in greater need of comforting through food.

Menzies Lyth advised ice-cream manufactures that the consumption of ice-cream aroused strong infantile feelings, which could easily turn to frustration, anger and hostility if the supply of ice-cream were to run out. An unlimited supply of ice-cream was therefore critically important to ensure that consumers never experience these negative feelings. This was especially relevant for places like cinemas, where consumers might demand ice-cream at any time, not merely as a dessert at the end of a meal, and where these demands must be instantly fulfilled in order to maintain the infantile dependence of the consumer.

Peter Miller & Nikolas Rose, Mobilising the consumer: assembling the subject of consumption, Theory, Culture and Society, 1997, 14, 1, 1-36 (pdf)

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