Correction: The original version of this story stated that Blue Bell was only recently available in North Carolina; it has been sold in Charlotte and Greensboro for several years. Blue Bell just recently arrived in the Triangle.
One Tuesday afternoon, I got a ring from a friend telling me that I wasn't gonna believe what he overheard a woman ask a supermarket employee earlier that day. "'Do you have any Blue Bell Ice Cream?'" he recalled.
Just days before, I had told my friend about Blue Bell Ice Cream, a century-old institution from my home state of Texas. If you've lived in Texas for more than a month and you're not some extreme health-food nut, chances are you've consumed Blue Bell. With creameries based in the small town of Brenham, Blue Bell is famously a Texas thing—its Carolina counterpart is Cheerwine. Blue Bell products are available in supermarkets and convenience stores in 19 other states, making it the third best-selling ice cream in the country. Unfortunately, while it was available in select parts of North Carolina, it was absent from Triangle grocery shelves.
And then late last month, half-gallons of Blue Bell invaded the Tar Heel State. I can't help being a bit giddy about it. Throughout my youth in Houston (yeah, yeah, you hate the town for a number of reasons—I don't wanna hear it!), my family's freezer always had some Blue Bell: Neapolitan, Cookies 'n' Cream, Banana Split, Peaches & Homemade Vanilla, Pecan Pralines 'n' Cream (a family favorite that I could never really get into)—oh, the flavors ran the gamut, son! We even, on occasion, dabbled in their vast, colorful network of sherbets.
As someone who prides himself on being an ice cream connoisseur, someone who has indulged in everything from Häagen-Dazs to Ben & Jerry's to that fancy gelato shit you see at Whole Foods, I have to admit that Blue Bell ice cream is truly the definition of comfort food: Something you scoop up, drop into a bowl and dig in after a taxing day, letting each cool, pleasantly sweet spoonful slide into your mouth and get you all frosty and tingly inside.
I'm actually a bigger fan of Blue Bell's ice-cream snacks. Whenever I was at a convenience store, I often found myself going to the ice-cream freezers and perusing Blue Bell's various single-serve items. Those rectangular ice-cream sandwiches—a simple, never-unsatisfying marriage of a block of vanilla ice cream and two chocolate wafers—were always a favorite. (They also came in Neapolitan and cookies 'n' cream flavors.) But there were also almond bars and fudge bars and Country Cones, which are like Nestlé Drumsticks—but they're in Texas.
There was a time in the late '80s when my mom would pick me up from middle school and she and I would stop off at a nearby gas station and get Bombstiks, a gigantic, missile-shaped, chocolate-vanilla popsicle. The whole point was to eat it before your forearm was covered in dripping, chocolate-vanilla goo.
In recent years, I couldn't get enough of Country Cookie, an ice cream sandwich that used oatmeal cookies instead of chocolate wafers. I was so in love with the item that it saddened me when I went back to Houston and discovered Blue Bell had taken it off the market. No one was selling it anywhere. I became so incensed by this lack of Country Cookies that I recently started a Facebook page, stating my mission to get Blue Bell to bring back this wonderful confection: www.facebook.com/BringBackTheCountryCookie.
At the moment, these snacks have yet to appear in North Carolina supermarkets or convenience stores. For now, we have the half-gallons, which you can find at Walmart, Lowes Foods and Kroger stores—but at last check not Food Lion.
Strangely enough, I haven't gone out and bought any Blue Bell for myself. (I'm trying to lose weight and cut down on sweets.) But I did buy a half-gallon of their Kentucky Delight flavor—brown sugar ice cream with chocolate chunks, nuts, piecrust and caramel—for a local burlesque dancer's birthday party. (Hey, I didn't know what to get her, and I thought it would be cute.) While I didn't stick around to partake in the ice cream goodness, the next day, she told me that she and her friends enjoyed the ice cream.
Another great thing about Blue Bell Ice Cream coming to North Carolina is getting North Carolinians hooked on it, in the hopes they'll finally admit some good things come out of Texas.
This article appeared in print with the headline "You've never had it so good."