NC bill would make ice cream the state’s official ‘frozen treat,’ but leave other desserts in the cold

Milk Lab’s Thai rolled ice cream is a trendy frozen treat

Milk Lab's Bin Chen discusses the process of making Thai rolled ice cream at the Cary treat shop
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Milk Lab's Bin Chen discusses the process of making Thai rolled ice cream at the Cary treat shop

That’s not a cherry atop your ice cream sundae, it’s a crown.

What is perhaps the sweetest bill ever filed in the North Carolina General Assembly would make ice cream the state’s Official Frozen Treat.

Republican Rep. John Torbett of Gaston County submitted House Bill 30 Tuesday naming ice cream tops among all other chilled treats in North Carolina.

Is Big Ice Cream behind the bill? Torbett says no, giving credit to the work of teacher Josie Conner’s fourth-grade class at Gaston Day School in a real-life recreation of “Schoolhouse Rock.”

Surely the children will lead us, and ice cream is the way.

“Their goal was to take it to Raleigh and have it entered as the state frozen treat,” Torbett said in a phone interview with The News & Observer. “I was happy to sponsor it.”

Gaston County happens to be home to Tony’s Ice Cream, which has been around since 1915 and proved to be the part of the inspiration behind the bill.

Torbett calls himself a chocolate and vanilla kind of guy, though he admits to the occasional butter pecan when cutting loose.

There have been numerous food festivals designated “official” state events over the years, including celebrations of shrimp, shad, collards and the like. But this would be the first official state food added in nearly two decades, according to the General Assembly’s website. (The last was in 2001, when the General Assembly declared North Carolina’s official blue berry: the blueberry.) Nevermind there’s not yet an official state dessert, (nor an official frozen treat, as the bill notes), though sweet potato pie stands out as the frontrunner.

Milk was made the state beverage in 1987, sweet potatoes the official vegetable in 1995, and the scuppernong grape the official fruit in 2001, surely to the Muscadine’s chagrin.

Ice cream is beloved in all seasons, though the soul’s salve in summer. It’s near about perfect. North Carolina is home to dozens of historic and inventive scoop shops and the kind of climate where most of the year is considered ice cream season.

Nine out of 10 Americans eat ice cream, according to statistics written into the bill, and all the scoops, sprinkles and sundaes in the country add $39 billion to the nation’s economy and 188,000 jobs.

NC State's dairy education center and creamery cafe off Lake Wheeler Road teaches the public about the university's herd, and its 'Howling Cow' milk and ice cream processing facility.

Torbett’s case notes the role of ice cream in the state’s dairy industry, and even NC State’s proprietary Howling Cow brand, which was just added to the shelves of some Wake County Harris Teeter stores. The bill acknowledges the role of banana splits and sundaes, presumably with and without nuts, along with fruit and sauces in elevating simple flavored cream and sugar to even greater heights.

Famously, the state passed a law last year that excluded all nut milks and other alternative dairy products from actually calling themselves milk.

Torbett said the state’s blessing would be placed only on those ice creams made from the milk of animals, counting out coconut ice cream, sorbet and so forth.

The bill leaves a number of frozen delicacies out in the cold: popsicles, frozen yogurt, margaritas and even custard. Sorry, Goodberry’s.

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Drew Jackson writes about restaurants and dining for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun, covering the food scene in the Triangle and North Carolina.