My husband and I share a favorite ice cream flavor: mint chocolate chip. It’s been the favorite of both of us for as long as I can remember. My parents do not share in this love of mint ice cream. They explained to me that it reminds them too much of toothpaste.
But most people like toothpaste’s flavor. Otherwise they’d make toothpaste taste like something different. So I’m just going to have to put it out there that my parents are wrong on this one. Mint chocolate chip ice cream tastes really good. But I will cede the point that too much of a good thing can get kind of icky, and the flavor balance does need to be done well in order to achieve the ideal sweet, refreshing, not-overly-cloying minty thing.
Around this time of year, the quintessential fast-food chain offers a green, toothpaste-flavored milkshake. According to their website, a small one (12 oz.) contains 530 calories. It has 73 grams of sugar (no, that’s not a typo) and 15 grams of fat (10 of those grams saturated). But they’re only available for a brief time each year, so no problem, right? I don’t know about you, but when I’m told that something is “only available for a limited time,” I get a little panic-y if I happen to like that thing. Better get ’em while I can! Even if I normally don’t visit that particular food establishment, the perceived scarcity of that particular milkshake flavor is a fairly effective marketing strategy. If you absolutely can’t stand the thought of missing out, try to share a small one with two other people – treat it as a dessert, use a spoon, and savor each spoonful. While savoring, decide whether it’s really that good. If you really love it, why gulp it down through a straw? And if it turns out you don’t really love it, don’t bother eating it.
We’re also in the midst of another limited-time-availability minty item . How can you say no to those sweet little girls sitting at the entrance to your local grocery store? The money goes to a good cause. And the boxes are kinda small. And the cookies are kinda small. And….. well, they’re Thin Mints, for crying out loud – one box a year won’t kill us. But the whole “cookie season” idea again creates a mindset of “buy a lot of them because they’ll be gone soon,” with an accompanying “it’s ok if I eat a whole box in one day, since they’re only available in the spring.” Not a good combination of thoughts. Buy one box of the cookies. Eat one cookie slowly, savoring each bite. Notice anything about the texture and feel in your mouth? Do you get that hydrogenated-oil-pasty/waxy/tongue-coated feeling? I do, and for me it’s not worth the calories. The girls accept cash donations of a couple bucks – makes you feel good, and you don’t have to eat mediocre cookies with a lousy nutrition profile.
My family recently did a side-by-side taste test of Thin Mints and yet another seasonal, get-’em-while-you-can chocolate mint cookie: Candy Cane Joe Joe’s. We saved a box from this past Christmas season for the express purpose of comparing them to Thin Mints. Our family was split on which one was better overall. There was, however, general agreement that the texture and mouth-feel of the Joe Joe’s were far superior (probably because they do not contain hydrogenated oil or much saturated fat), and that the mintiness level of the Thin Mints was better (when directly comparing, the Joe Joe’s actually tasted too much like toothpaste, which none of us had ever really noticed before when eating them without a comparison reference cookie).
If you’re a huge fan of minty flavors, keep in mind that such flavors of ice cream are available year-round. No time pressure. You can get a small serving of hard-scoop frozen yogurt at TCBY and savor it any time of year. And you can use mint yourself in your own cooking and food preparation, and taste the real refreshing flavor of the leaves.
Try growing spearmint on your windowsill or outside your house. It’s really easy to do (if I can grow it, anyone can). Chew on a leaf occasionally. Chop some up and mix with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and crushed garlic for a really delicious salad dressing. Chop some up with parsley, tomatoes, and a little onion and maybe a little cracked wheat, and toss with some lemon juice and olive oil – voila: fresh tabouli. Boil up a bunch of leaves for some mint tea. Experiment. Enjoy. Have fun. And you may come to love the real stuff so much that the green-food-coloring-saturated-fat-filled-seasonal-must-haves lose some of their appeal.