James Lileks
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If you see a headline that says "this ice cream may be going away forever," of course you want to know. It could be your favorite flavor! If they discontinue vanilla, what does the future of Apple Pie look like? Naked and alone?

You would not be surprised to see "Gen Z has canceled vanilla" with a clickybaity story that interviews six people who find vanilla boring, which then suggests that the entire ice cream-industrial-complex will pivot out of panic and discontinue America's baseline butterfat confection.

But no. According to the website "The Takeout, ""Chocolate chip ice cream is reportedly going extinct." The headline has a plaintive bleat: "Why Is No One Eating This Ice Cream Flavor Anymore?" The New York Times noted last month that chocolate chip has fallen out of the top 10 ice cream flavors. These are dire times for choc-chip lovers.

The popular flavors all sound good, except for coffee (No. 7), which is a flavor that should be found only in coffee. Salted caramel? Delicious. Cookie Dough? Sin in a spoon. Few of these were top-10 flavors in the postwar era, when Sealtest had an astonishing number of flavors popping out of the R&D labs every few months. Pineapple pistachio! Coconut grape! Velveeta ripple!

But they never made it to Fargo, where it seemed we had only the following:

VANILLA. You could buy it in a gallon pail, which is quite the commitment. A man loosened his belt, got out a dish, and set to work. Our forebears who took life by the pail-handle would look at our tiny little containers and ask what happened to us. I imagine a Marine drill instructor looming over me, holding a pint, and shouting: "TOOTY FROOTY CHUNKY MONKEY? HAVE YOU LOST YOUR MIND, PRIVATE? HOW CAN YOU EXPECT TO DEFEND THE CONSTITUTION IF YOU ARE FULL OF CHUNKY MONKEY? WELL?"

We had chocolate, of course. Strawberry, which you'd get at a friend's birthday party, and you'd look at it and think: "Well, I suppose."

NEAPOLITAN. This was a revelation to any child. First, that three flavors could be somehow delivered in the same cohesive slice, and second, that you should never trust anything in life because this ice cream had little hard pieces of fruit with the consistency of pencil erasers.

FRENCH VANILLA. This was the most important development. It was vanilla, but ooh-la-la and more so. You were surprised they even made vanilla after the French style came along. No thanks, none of that rich, creamier, more flavorful stuff for me, I'll just work on this pail with a garden trowel.

At some point you might have gone to the Cities and stayed at a Howard Johnson's. They had 28 flavors. The mind reeled. It was almost paralyzing. Go for something heretofore unimagined, and be disappointed? Stick with the tried and true?

Mom would have something mysterious and shocking like Black Cherry — your first clue that your parents had a deep and complex inner life you had never glimpsed before.

There will always be a market for chocolate chip — heck, there's probably a market for Pineapple Pesto Gelati. Just because popular demand is low doesn't mean they won't make it — see also, Adam Sandler comedies.

But no one can possibly say that the gradual decline of chocolate chip ice cream hasn't been accompanied by a profusion of new delights.

And yes, I can defend the Constitution after a dish of Sea Salt Caramel Peanut-Butter Fudge Ribbon. The life parts, the liberty part, yes, but most of all the pursuit of happiness.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks