A Frozen Yogurt Culture

by Abigail Drachman-Jones | 5/29/02 5:00am

I am a self-proclaimed dessert-aholic. Chocolate of course, but ice cream and frozen yogurt too -- these are my favorites. Recently, I had dessert with a group of friends in Food Court. We descended upon the frozen yogurt machines, created our individual sweets, and returned to claim a long table for our own. This is the image that struck me: here I sat, along like most of my friends, with my normal-sized cup of frozen yogurt. On the other hand, there was another friend who sat with a taster cup filled with the same ingredients I had in my own cup: frozen yogurt, toppings, even a tiny dab of chocolate sauce, all crammed into that tiny space.

Taking my love of ice cream to the next level, I wrote an "investigation" piece for one of my classes this term on the frozen yogurt/ice cream section of Food Court. Supplied with six flavor options and a dessert bar filled with an array of toppings and sauces, this area is hard to rival. To collect my data, I sat behind the registers in Food Court for three hours during "prime time," between 6 and 9 p.m. Consider my findings.

A total of 143 girls bought a cup or a cone of frozen yogurt or ice cream, while a mere 37 boys did the same. Of these 143 girls, only about half (74 in total) put toppings on their dessert, whereas almost all the boys (27 of the 37) added toppings.

So yes, girls seem to eat ice cream/frozen yogurt far more often than boys do. But who are these dessert-aholics?

To begin, the female of the ice cream-eating species. The Group Eaters enter Food Court, in pairs or small groups, with their mission set in stone: take taster cup; sample a few flavors, some more than once; take a small-sized cup; fill with flavor of choice, add toppings if desired; stand in line while already eating dessert; pay. Group Eaters often congregate, herd-like, in the small ice cream area. Walled-in on three sides by the ice cream machines in front of them, the toppings bar to their right, and the fudge/caramel/butterscotch/peanut butter sauce trays behind them, they move around this feeding ground with gusto, a chattering array of hungry mouths.

Tasters, on the other hand, limit their dessert intake by using the two-ounce taster cups. Tasters often first lurk about the machines considering the flavor options. Once the flavor of choice has been decided and the taster cup filled, Tasters often remain to go back for seconds.

A friend of mine cannot stand the Tasters, though. "Thank God I'm not one of those girls. I'd be embarrassed to be seen walking around Food Court with a tiny thing of ice cream shoved into my face. They don't even pay."

Aside from the illegal activities of the Taster (stealing ice cream can result in a $50 fine), the Taster's art of creating and eating is quite impressive. First, there is amount. Some Tasters put only a small portion into the cup, but others overflow the taster cup so that they are constantly licking at and re-piling its contents. Secondly, there is the eating process. The Taster has to balance her enjoyment of eating with her fear of getting caught by a DDS employee; her actions, then, become a display of secretive, rapid eating. With eyes darting around and head bent low, she quickly laps at its contents. And yes, the Taster laps. Almost like a dog with a bowl of water, the Taster thrusts her tongue into the taster cup, scooping out bits of ice cream or frozen yogurt. Plunging and re-plunging, both sloppy and rude, she licks, slops, and almost stabs at her tiny treat.

The Taster Sundae, however, is the Taster's crowning glory. Mastered to the highest degree, this delicacy is perfection and ironic comedy all in one. The steps are simple: fill taster with frozen yogurt or ice cream; approach toppings bar and survey the scene, noting location and appearance of all the options; choose between one and three (sometimes four, if the Taster is an expert) candies and pile them on top -- and voila, the Taster sundae.

In contrast, male members of the ice-cream eating species differ markedly in their approach. Whether in groups or by themselves, they rarely -- if ever -- use taster cups, nor do they dawdle in the area deciding between flavors and toppings. They act fast and deliberately, choose what they want, pay for it and then eat.

But what shocked me the most was the opinions guys had on girls eating ice cream/frozen yogurt. Considering that some guys see frozen yogurt as "the death of girls' bodies," there is a distinct preoccupation in guys' minds about girls and their eating habits.

"I hate the taster phenomenon," one boy said. "If you're going to eat dessert, suck it up, get a cup. It you are going to indulge, you might as well go big. None of those tiny taster things."

"Froyo is a friend of fat," another added, "and it is an enemy of the eligible bachelor." And so while these guys might possibly associate "froyo" with weight gain (even the "freshman 15"), they, too, make it a personal issue.

Eavesdropping on my conversations with passing Food Court eaters, one of the DDS employees, a daily eyewitness in the ice cream/frozen yogurt area, offered his observations. Joining my game, he became a detective with me.

"Here's what I don't get. See that girl, she just took a taster of frozen yogurt. But the choices today are the same as they were yesterday, and the day before. I remember her, she was here yesterday, but she just keeps taking tasters."

He stopped talking for a moment as we watched a group of Tasters, and then a few more, stalking their way through the ice cream feeding ground.

Suddenly giving up our disguise, he burst out, "There's another one! She's eatin' away. And there's another one. Look at them. It's a scandal. They're all cheating the system. Miss! You there! Make sure you make a nice contribution to the register when you leave."

Walking past me, he added,"She was eating away like it was going out of style."

Well, not exactly out of style -- there will always be more ice cream in the machines tomorrow. But in style. That seems to be a better explanation. For both girls and guys, ice cream/frozen yogurt is quite the commodity, in style and ever-popular, even if on the sly.