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Dear Bon Blue Bell Ice Cream a ‘Cult’ Favorite?

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Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean Ice Cream beat out a panel of contenders at a Bon taste test. The results were published Sunday on Yahoo’s home page and Blue Bell was described as a “cult” favorite. Bon mentioned where it was distributed, but not that it originated in Texas, in Brenham, where it has been produced for more than a century. We thought we’d point that out.


Dear Bon editors, Julia Bainbridge and Supermarket Standoff participants:

I write to you with some amusement and just a bit of chiding.

In a recent article entitled Supermarket Standoff, you sampled 10 vanilla ice creams.Your taste test winner (and in fact No. 3 in relative healthfulness) was Blue Bell Natural Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

We applaud the results. But, here’s a fact that you left out:  Blue Bell Ice Cream originated, and still is made, in Texas. (Only in the 1990s did the company open additional production facilities in Broken Arrow, Okla., and Sylacauga, Ala.)

It has been a favorite here in its home state for more than 100 years. It is still produced in its original location in Brenham, a little town northwest of Houston. It is delicious (as you discovered), and it is sold in grocery stores all over the state at a reasonable price and in plenty of flavors.

How would this make it a “cult” ice cream?

This is not homerism. I believe you’ve misused the word. You do mention, in fact, that it is available in some 20 states. To me, “cult” is a word I’d use for a product that was not readily available to the general public — perhaps it is hard to find, or it is hard to afford. I think of the term “cult” wines and my first thought is that I probably can’t get them in my favorite wine shop, and if I could, I probably wouldn’t be able to afford them.

I also wonder about your sentence: “We included it because it is such a cult favorite …” Why the dismissive (or even grudging) note here? Did you, perhaps, use the word “cult” because it was preferable to using the word “Texas”?

Blue Bell has a venerable history. The ice creamery was established by a cooperative of farmers to make good use of their excess milk and cream back in the early 1900s. It has long been the everyday, go-to ice cream for Texas ice cream lovers and families. Oh, and probably lots of families in those 19 other states you mention.

When I moved to Texas from Arizona years ago, I would joke to my husband that Blue Bell Ice Cream and ZZ Top were the main reasons I moved here. (Actually, I moved here to marry him.)  Not only was the flavor and texture of Blue Bell excellent, I loved the fact that they rotated flavors by season. For instance, when summertime comes, they take advantage of the bounteous crop of peaches grown in the Texas Hill Country and elsewhere to make one of their rotational ice creams.

Texas (as did other agriculturally rich,  food-producing states) actually had that “seasonal, local” thing going many years ago — maybe even before it was recognized as a hip restaurant concept “originating” in that politically correct state, California.

I am really glad that you did choose Blue Bell to test, and that your taste test discovered what we’ve known for years. You might even want to send a writer out to Brenham — it’s a great topic for an article.


Bonnie Walker,

Editor, SavorSA


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One Response to “Dear Bon Blue Bell Ice Cream a ‘Cult’ Favorite?”

  1. Kenton Devereux says:

    I think they’re right: it IS a “cult favorite.” I think “cult” refers not to availability but to penetration. After all, ANYONE can like the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but only a certain type of person seeks it out, and thinks it wonderful. That’s what makes it a cult movie. And anyone can be a hare krishna and dance in the airport, but only a certain type of person actually does it, and thinks that’s wonderful. That’s what makes them a cult. And anyone can enjoy Blue Bell Ice Cream (which I do when I’m in Texas and Louisiana) and think it wonderful, and that’s what makes it a cult favorite.