My Cold, Sticky Fingers


Bill Tune

For Whom the Blue Bell Tolls

(with apologies to John Donne)

No man loves an ice cream,

More than life itself.

Flavors bring contentment,

Keeping us all sane.

But loss can seem so bitter,

Sweetness gone awry.

Therefore, send not to know

For whom the Blue Bell tolls,

It tolls for me.   ;-(

I choose not to dissect the profound meaning behind this poetic atrocity. I'll leave that for future high school English teachers. Simply put, I WANT MY BLUE BELL BACK!!

I've always been a fan of Blue Bell Ice Cream (duh!). I lived just 11 miles from the original Creamery in Brenham for seven years. I will always regret not taking a tour of the facility when it was so close, especially missing out on meeting Belle herself, the contented cow. I knew several people who did tour the Blue Bell Creamery, and all were
very impressed with the operation. I think my niece even got Belle's autograph. I even met people who had worked there, and the only complaint I ever heard was about the commercial where the Blue Bell deliveryman stated, “We eat all we can and deliver the rest.” The former deliveryman with whom I spoke ruefully told me that was not true. I can only speculate whether or not his possible confusion over that claim had anything to do with his becoming a “former” deliveryman.

For the past few months my household has taken on the habit after lunch of indulging in a small (to smallish-medium) scoop of Blue Bell Ice Cream - the best ice cream on the planet! Our number one flavor of choice: Southern Peach Cobbler. “YUM!!” doesn't begin to describe the semi-religious euphoria produced by this exquisite cream of ice. Unfortunately, it seems to be somewhat seasonal so it is not always available. By necessity we sometimes change the flavors of our post-lunch treat, but we NEVER change the brand. As someone on Facebook so eloquently put it: “In Texas, Blue Bell is not just another brand of ice cream. Without Blue Bell we don't have ice cream!!”

As I figure it, I'm on stage four of the five stages of grief:

Stage One: Denial.  Since my first notification of death by Bell Bell came on Facebook, it was easy to dismiss it as a prank or a miss-timed April Fools joke. Sadly, further investigation only confirmed the alarming reality. [Serious note: the light-hearted humor attempted in this essay is meant in no way to diminish the severity of the loss of life caused by Blue Bell's mistakes.]

I was not prepared for what was to come - a recall of selected products! I carefully checked on line for the list of suspected contaminated flavors and was relieved to find no listing for my favorite. However, according to the code on the bottom of the most recent container, it was produced at the same plant in Oklahoma. When the recall was expanded to all ice cream from that plant, I was still not too worried.

I have an email relationship with my local grocery store (don't ask), and thanks to modern technology they (unbeknown to me) can track my purchases. I got an
email that almost made me laugh. It said essentially, “We notice that you purchased some Blue Bell Ice Cream three weeks ago. Feel free to return it for a full refund due to recent recalls.” I wanted to reply, “Dear Grocery Store, What ever makes you think that I would still have any Blue Bell Ice Cream left from a three-week-old purchase?!?!??” The purchase in question wasn't even my precious Peach Cobbler, which I later found in a Walmart in a neighboring town. That purchase had been long since consumed, and we were working on the good stuff from out of town - which had no email link to bother me.

Stage Two: Anger. The next time I shopped locally in need of ice cream, I found the Blue Bell section sparse, but Chocolate Chip ice cream was still available. However, as I was leaving the store I noticed a Blue Bell truck in the parking lot ready to restock the shelves. I had hope.

On the morning of Monday, April 20th, I pushed my cart by the frozen desserts section and there it was: an entire row of Blue Bell's Southern Peach Cobbler Ice Cream!! I bought two half-gallons and returned home triumphant. I didn't expect to see this flavor again until the health scare was over. We hadn't finished the Chocolate Chip, yet, but we were going to be ready when it was gone! My elation faded quickly that afternoon with the announcement that Blue Bell was recalling ALL products immediately.

I am a law-abiding, compliant citizen - usually. But when I was instructed to return my Blue Bell products to the store - including TWO unopened half-gallons of the precious Peach Cobbler - I snapped.  I screamed at the TV, my computer, and anyone who would listen on Facebook, “THEY CAN HAVE MY BLUE BELL WHEN THEY PRY IT FROM MY COLD, STICKY FINGERS!!”

After a cooling off period, I was able to deal with the situation more calmly. I politely told the TV, my computer, and anyone who would listen on Facebook, “They can have my Blue Bell when they pry it from my cold, sticky fingers!”

Stage Three: Bargaining. This was my “Why me, Lord?” phase. To be so innocent and yet suffer the pangs of deprivation is enough to drive anyone to acts of desperation. However, I now live over four hours from the Creamery in Brenham, so a personal protest was way too much trouble. In fact, when I measured my suffering with that of people who actually had problems, mine melted quicker than Blue Bell on the driveway in August. I did not “suffer” this phase too long.

Stage Four: Depression.  Yep. This is it. I'm depressed. To walk by the ice cream section of my local grocery store and see a gaping hole that should be filled with world's tastiest frozen treats - that's depressing. The sadness only grows when a few days later a trip by that same section reveals imposter ice creams sitting where the good stuff should be!

How long must we suffer? Estimates now say weeks. How depressing.

I hope to someday reach Stage Five: Acceptance, but I still need some time. I found an allegedly clever T-Shirt on Facebook that says, “I survived the Blue Bell crisis of 2015,” to which I replied, “I haven't survived yet!”

We all make mistakes and Blue Bell has admitted theirs. I think they are to be commended for the way they've handled the situation. Once it became apparent the problem was not as isolated as hoped, they took the drastic measure to recall all products and completely shut down all plants for complete decontamination and retraining of personnel. Of even bigger significance is that in light of the tremendous financial hit, Blue Bell has chosen not to lay off any employees. Unfortunately, it appears that doing the right thing in this case will take weeks - weeks without any Blue Bell Ice Cream. I know that when we taste the sweet victory of Blue Bell's return, I will be among the legions of loyal fans rushing to purchase my favorite flavors.

I realize that our “first world” problems are of little consequence globally, but that doesn't make me miss my Blue Bell any less. I hesitate to reveal the ultimate fate of those last two half-gallons of Southern Peach Cobbler because we live in a judgmental society. Some would criticize the waste of such a precious resource while others would scold me for taking any risk of exposing my family to the bacteria.

However, remember the adage, “forbidden fruit tastes sweeter”? Well, it really does.


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