TT: Eating it Cold

JANE:  A couple of years ago, eating ice became a major trend.  I remember reading about it in The Wall Street Journal, which noted that ice-eating aficionados even preferred ice from certain vendors.

A Refreshing Repast

A Refreshing Repast

One chain’s ice was so popular that they had to start charging for it, because so many people were coming in and helping themselves to large cups of ice without making a purchase.  Turns out that the fans of their ice were perfectly willing to pay for it by the five or ten pound bag.

ALAN: Now that’s just weird. I’ve never heard of the ice-eating habit. Tell me more.

JANE: Gladly!  At the time, I thought this was pretty funny because, when I was in college, there was an urban legend that chewing ice was an indication of sexual frustration…

ALAN: (Sounding smug). Maybe that’s the reason I’ve never felt any urge to eat ice.

JANE: No comment!

Ice eating reached a peak in 2014, when the “ice eating diet” was the newest dieting fad.  Ice, of course, has no calories.  However, eating ice was supposed to have the added benefit of forcing the body to burn calories, because the ice lowered your body temperature.

ALAN: I’m not convinced by that argument.

JANE: Nor were many other people…  If you’re interested, you can read a variety of studies, including ones where people went to the trouble of estimating how much ice you would need to eat in order to sufficiently influence your body temperature.

Given that you can also damage your teeth by eating ice, it’s hardly worth taking up the habit, even if you might lose a few pounds.

Did you know that ice eating may be an indication of a serious health problem?

ALAN: What could possibly be more serious than sexual frustration?

JANE: I thought you had no familiarity with that…

ALAN: I speak purely in a spirit of scientific curiosity!

JANE: Actually, ice eating has been associated with a condition called iron deficiency anemia.  The reason that people with this condition acquire a craving for chewing ice is unclear but, apparently, there can be a connection.

ALAN: That’s a very odd symptom for something so potentially serious. My mother once told me that in England in the 1950s, nursing mothers could get Guinness on prescription as a dietary supplement to try and combat anemia. I would imagine that made it almost worthwhile to have children…

JANE: Indeed!  I’m not a beer drinker, but I’ve always thought that Guinness has a much richer aroma than many other beers.  Certainly, that makes it a health food.

ALAN: Anyway, getting back to ice – New Zealanders and Australians are very fond of having picnics on the beach during summer. Traditionally picnickers take wickerwork picnic baskets with them on such occasions. However, picnic baskets have no mechanisms for keeping the food and drink cold. Indeed, I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen a traditional wickerwork picnic basket in real life – I only know them from illustrations in books…

Anyway, we have sealed plastic units with a blue liquid inside them which we keep in the freezer. At picnic time, we put them into insulated containers together with the food and drink that we intend to consume during the day. The cheaper containers are generally made of polystyrene; more expensive ones are made from polyurethane plastic.

New Zealanders call these containers “chilly bins” which seems a very sensible and descriptive name to me. However Australians call them “eskis.” (I don’t know the derivation, though perhaps it has something to do with Eskimos.) Do you do this and if so do you have a special name for the things you keep your food and drink in?

JANE: Wicker picnic baskets are still common here, probably because they’re so attractive.

I looked on-line and came to the conclusion that what you call a “chilly bin” is what we’d call a “cooler” – short for “insulated cooler.”  They’ve been around forever and ever.  Originally, coolers were made from metal.  My family had one that was so heavy it took two people to carry when full.  Jim and I still have a (much lighter) metal cooler, as well as several plastic ones.

ALAN: “Cooler” sounds like a very sensible name as well. So that really leaves the oddly named Australian eski out in the cold. So to speak…

JANE: Ouch!  What is it about ice and cold that lends itself to jokes?

ALAN: I think we’re just eavesdropping on the conversations the chattering teeth are having…

Of course you don’t want to pack a huge chilly bin if all you are doing is taking a bottle of wine to a dinner party. I have some flexible cylindrical plastic units with liquid inside. Again, these live in the freezer and, just before we leave the house, I wrap them round the wine bottles to keep the wine cool on the journey.

JANE: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen something like those here as well.  They do seem like a good idea.

ALAN: I also used to have some sealed plastic “ice cubes” full of light emitting diodes which flashed red, green and blue until their batteries ran out. They didn’t cool anything at all, but they looked hugely effective when you put them in your drinks at parties. However, because they were a completely sealed unit, the batteries could not be replaced, so once the cubes stopped flashing, they had to be thrown away.

JANE: They may not have cooled your drink, but nevertheless I bet they looked very cool!

Another wonderful advance in freezing technology is the wide variety of packs and wraps that make it a lot easier to chill specific body parts.  Unsurprisingly, a long archeological career has not been kind to Jim’s knees.  A few years ago, he found gel-filled wraps that he can freeze and then fasten around his knee.  This is a whole lot more convenient than trying to keep an ice bag balanced.

ALAN: Or a bag of frozen peas. When I broke my ankle a few years ago, the frozen peas proved very effective, though quite awkward to balance.

JANE: And afterwards, you must eat the peas.  You can’t refreeze to use again later.

A few years ago, when I developed a severe case of plantar fasciitis, we discovered that these same wraps are perfect for cooling my feet.  I can rest my feet on them and the frozen gel shapes to the contours of my feet.  Bliss!

ALAN: At the moment it’s the middle of winter here and all this talk about ice is having a bad effect on me. I think I’ll go and huddle in front of a heater with my dog for a while. I’ll talk to you again next week when my fingers have unfrozen themselves.

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10 Responses to “TT: Eating it Cold”

  1. Sally Says:

    Esky is an Australian manufacturer of portable coolers, in business since 1952 (so says Wikipedia).

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    Guinness for anemia? Perhaps you mean Guinness for the B vitamins from the yeast?

    As for eating ice, my father blamed his bad teeth later in life on his habit as a child of crunching ice cubes. I’m not sure if there’s a connection, but I would be careful of chewing too much ice.

    Anyway, thanks for the summer counterprogramming. Hope you’re enjoying the monsoon, Jane.

  3. Paul Says:

    Oh lordy, I’m doomed. I crunch ice left over in soft drinks all the time!!!

    • henrietta abeyta Says:

      Plus when people camp a week or more. Our teeth aren’t like animals’ and they can break easier. Even by accident. Control this upset feeling, disappointment, or shame feeling of yours. I’d say rotten teeth are worse sir. And it’s been shown on the news a few times in the past, we in the USA don’t have colored rotten teeth like the Africans…………

  4. A.D.Madden Says:

    I used to eat ice constantly, In college i learned it was because I have an iron deficiency. Give me a Slush over ice cream any day.

  5. littlemissw Says:

    I’m Australian and I have to second what Sally has said about Eskys. It’s like Americans calling tissues Kleenex or the British calling vacuum cleaners Hoovers.

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