An ice cream judge says that ice cream tastes better when it’s licked from a cone than eaten from a spoon.
Kay McMath, a sensory scientist from Massey University and chief judge for the New Zealand Ice Cream Awards, said today the question of whether ice cream tasted better from a cone than when eaten from a spoon was a tricky hypothesis to prove as it involved such different procedures for different individuals.
“However there are some physical and physiological reasons why there are likely to be differences in flavour,” she said. “Flavour in ice cream is released when it’s warmed in the mouth to at least body temperature. During licking, the tongue is coated with a thin layer of ice cream where it is more quickly warmed, and the flavour is detected by the large surface area of the taste buds present on the tongue. By comparison, the spoon provides insulation to keep the ice cream colder when put into the mouth. Once in the mouth the tongue pushes the ice cream to the roof of the mouth to melt before swallowing. A smaller surface area is therefore involved in warming the ice cream to release the flavours.”
Mrs McMath said that because ice cream was eaten in smaller amounts when it was licked from a cone, the full melt and therefore the full flavour release occurred with every lick.
She said this scientific explanation supported the view that the longer the ice cream licking moment lasted, the greater the enjoyment.
That explains why it’s better eaten from a tea spoon than a dessert spoon and why softer ice cream which has sat at room temperature for a while – though not so long it melts completely – is better than when it’s straight from the freezer and hard.
I’ve always been a fan of the the longer lick – when I was a child I could make an ice cream bought at the petrol station at Evensdale last until we got to my aunt’s house in Dunedin which must have taken more than half an hour. At the time I was just trying to compete with my brothers to see whose ice cream could last the longest, but this study shows our sibling rivalry led to enhanced enjoyment of what was then a very rare treat too.