On the day the news broke about Blue Bell’s partial recall, we had a pint of Mint Chocolate Chip and a pint of Ultimate Neapolitan in our freezer. We would have had a pint of the Great Divide as well—except that I had polished it off the night before.
Both of my kids had had a sore throat—my father-in-law always joked that Blue Bell was the best medicine for that sort of thing—so I had happily headed to the store to stock up. When my wife learned about the recall, she immediately searched for which products were affected. That’s when one of the main differences between the two of us emerged. When I saw that our pints were not on the list, I whooped, “All clear!” She offered me a look that I’ve grown accustomed to after twenty years of marriage and remarked that we were throwing them out regardless. And so we did. As usual, she sensed something I didn’t. In a few short weeks, every single Blue Bell product would disappear from the shelves.
It goes without saying that Blue Bell is one of the great Texas brands. When I was growing up, you used Imperial Sugar, drank Dr Pepper, ate Mrs Baird’s bread, and served Blue Bell. Blue Bell in particular continues to have a hold on Texans, in part because it remains so closely identified with its small-town roots in Brenham, despite the fact that it is the third-largest ice cream company in the country. In late April, not long after the complete recall, I snapped a picture of a Blue Bell truck driving in downtown Austin and posted it on social media. The response was hilarious; variations of “Stop that truck” and laments on how terrible it is to be stuck eating Breyers filled my newsfeed.
Of course, the issues facing the company are critical, and that’s what Mimi Swartz tried to balance in “Rocky Road.” She spent time in Brenham and at the very quiet Blue Bell Creameries, and her dispatch perfectly captures the tension between supporting a Texas icon and entertaining skepticism about where the company goes from here. I hope it is true that Pecan Pralines ’n Cream—my favorite flavor—is back in stores this summer. I hate to think of my kids growing up in a world without Blue Bell.