14 Single-Scoops You Didn't Know About Baskin-Robbins

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Even if you've sampled all 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins, there are probably a few things you don’t know about the franchise.

1. BASKIN AND ROBBINS WERE IN-LAWS.

image of the balloons outside a Baskin Robbins restaurant celebrating its 70th anniversary
Rachel Murray, Getty Images

Irv Robbins grew up working in his dad’s ice cream shop, The Olympic Store. After he got out of the military in 1945, he opened a store of his own—Snowbird Ice Cream store in Glendale, California. When his brother-in-law Burt Baskin got out of the military shortly thereafter, he also decided to try his hand in the ice cream biz, and opened Burton's Ice Cream in Pasadena. They had eight stores between them just eight years later, and decided to combine forces into a single chain.

2. THEY FLIPPED A COIN TO SEE WHOSE NAME WOULD COME FIRST.

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Despite the Burton's Ice Cream and Snowbird Ice Cream merger, the franchise didn't become Baskin-Robbins until 1953. The brothers-in-law flipped a coin to see whose name would come first in the company. It just as easily could have been Robbins-Baskin.

3. THERE ARE WAY MORE THAN 31 FLAVORS.

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It may be famous for its "31 Flavors," which is intended to represent a flavor for every day of the month, but the company has actually featured more than 1000 flavors over the years. Their top sellers, however, remain pretty basic: vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, pralines and cream, and chocolate chip.

4. AND SPEAKING OF PRALINES AND CREAM …

image of someone scooping from a vat of praline dessert
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The company claims Irv and Irma Robbins invented the now-classic flavor. They had just returned from a New Orleans vacation and were snacking on some souvenir pralines when a light bulb went off. They mixed the nuts in with vanilla ice cream, then added a drizzle of caramel. The flavor was so good that they put it in stores, and it became one of their all-time best-selling flavors. They even ran out at some stores, prompting ice cream-addicted Americans to send petitions to the Baskin-Robbins headquarters. In 1985, the company sued Häagen-Dazs for adding pralines and cream to their lineup.

5. ROBBINS CAME UP WITH A BEATLE-THEMED FLAVOR ON THE SPOT.

image of the Beatles (the musical group, not the insect)
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Just before the Beatles came to the U.S. for their first big tour, a Washington Post reporter called Robbins to ask what special promotion he had cooked up for the occasion. "Nothing," was the real answer, but Robbins quickly improvised, telling the reporter that "Beatle Nut" was on the way. The company scrambled to get the flavor created, made, and delivered in five days.

6. THAT'S NOT THE ONLY SPECIAL-EVENT FLAVOR.

image of President Gerald Ford standing in front of an American flag and pointing toward an audience
AFP/Stringer, Getty Images

Other special-occasion flavors include Baseball Nut, invented when the Dodgers moved to L.A.; 0031 Secret Bonded during the James Bond craze; and Lunar Cheesecake for the 1969 moon landing. For America's bicentennial in 1976, the company produced Valley Forge Fudge for President Ford to enjoy.

7. NOT ALL FLAVORS MAKE IT TO CONSUMERS.

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Among the flavors that were tested but never mass-produced: Ketchup, Grape Britain, and Lox and Bagels.

8. IRV ROBBINS WAS REALLY INTO ICE CREAM.

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Not only did he have an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool, he also named his boat "32nd Flavor." And it was easy to spot Robbins driving around L.A.—his vanity plates read "31BR." He said people would occasionally spot the plates and stop him to ask for ice cream.

9. ROBBINS ALSO LIKED EATING ICE CREAM.

image of vanilla ice cream sitting on top of a bowl of what could be cereal, but probably isn't
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He liked to "douse" his morning bowl of cereal with banana ice cream and went through a quart every few days. The Robbins house in Rancho Mirage, California, came equipped with a six-flavor ice cream dispenser.

10. SOMETIMES IN-STORE PROMOTIONS AREN'T ALL THEY'RE "QUACKED" UP TO BE.

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Robbins was particularly fond of a refreshing "Cold Duck" ice cream flavor, which tasted similar to cold duck sparkling wine. It had to be scrapped, however, when Japanese stores promoted it by hanging dead ducks from the ceiling. "We almost collapsed," Robbins said.

11. LOTS OF CELEBRITIES HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED BY BASKIN-ROBBINS.

image of a plaque marking Michelle and Barack Obama's first kiss at a Baskin Robbins
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Plenty of people scooped ice cream at BR before they went on to bigger and better things. The illustrious lineup has included Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, Taryn Manning, and Eric Dane. Obama has quite a history with Baskin-Robbins—he and Michelle experienced both their first date and their first kiss at a store in Chicago (which has since been commemorated with a historical marker-esque plaque).

12. HOWARD HUGHES WAS BRIEFLY OBSESSED WITH THE BANANA NUT FLAVOR.

image of Howard Hughes standing next to some other guy
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Howard Hughes, as we know now, was practically the poster child for OCD. So it's not terribly surprising to learn that when he developed a liking for a certain Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavor, he really developed a liking for it. When the billionaire found out Baskin-Robbins had discontinued his favorite flavor, banana nut, he ordered 100 gallons. The ice cream had to be stored down in the kitchens of the Desert Inn (the hotel where he was living)—and it was a real hassle when Hughes decided he preferred French Vanilla just a few months later. "Somewhere at the D.I., they still might have old gallons of unopened banana nut," ex-Desert Inn president Burton Cohen said in 2000.

13. BURT BASKIN DIED OF A HEART ATTACK IN 1967.

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You've probably noticed that all of these stories center around Robbins, not Baskin. That's because Baskin passed away at the age of 54, just six months after selling the company to United Fruit Co. for $12 million.

14. IRV'S SON JOHN WALKED AWAY FROM THE BASKIN-ROBBINS EMPIRE.

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Not only did Irv's son refuse to be groomed for the position of Baskin-Robbins heir, he actively lobbies against the dairy industry. "My father told me he believed that I was very intelligent, very sincere, and very crazy," John Robbins has said. Once, when his father sought out medical help for health problems like diabetes and heart disease later in his life, his doctors unwittingly handed him a copy of Diet for a New America—a book on healthy eating written by John.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

20 Attempts to Describe the Taste of Durian, the World’s Smelliest Fruit

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The durian is a beloved delicacy in Malaysia, Singapore, and other parts of Southeast Asia. Its taste and smell, however, take some getting used to. The creamy fruit is notoriously potent—in fact, it’s so smelly that Singapore’s public transit systems tell passengers not to bring them onto subways or buses. And yet, despite its stinky reputation, it can be found practically everywhere: In curries, cakes, and even ice cream. For visitors, biting into the fruit can be an utterly confusing and contradictory experience. Here are some outsider opinions from the past 400 years.

1. “The flesh is as white as snow, exceeds in delicacy of taste of all our best European fruits, and none of ours can approach it.” —Jacques de Bourges, 17th Century Missionary

2. “Comparisons have been made with the civet cat, sewage, stale vomit, onions, and cheese; while one disaffected visitor to Indonesia declared that the eating of the flesh was not much different from having to consume used surgical swabs.” —The Oxford Companion to Food

3. “Tastes lightly sweet and deeply musky.” —Frommer’s Guide to Malaysia

4. “[I]ts odor is best described as pig-sh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away.” —Richard Sterling, food writer

5. "To eat it seems to be the sacrifice of self-respect.” —Bayard Taylor, 19th-century Journalist

6. “To anyone who doesn’t like durian it smells like a bunch of dead cats. But as you get to appreciate durian, the smell is not offensive at all. It’s attractive. It makes you drool like a mastiff.” —Bob Halliday, Bangkok-based food writer

7. “Vomit-flavoured custard.” —The Rough Guide to Malaysia, Singapore & Brunei

8. “The smell of rotten eggs is so overwhelming. I suppress a gag reaction as I take a bite.” —Robb Walsh, food writer

9. “Like all the good things in Nature … durian is indescribable. It is meat and drink and an unrivalled delicacy besides, and you may gorge to repletion and never have cause for penitence. It is the one case where Nature has tried her hand at the culinary art and beaten all the CORDON BLEUE out of heaven and earth.” —a "good friend" of Edmund J. Banfield, Australian Naturalist, as quoted in Banfield's 1911 book My Tropic Isle

10. “[Has a] sewer-gas overtone.” —Maxine E. McBrinn, Anthropologist

11. “Like pungent, runny French cheese … Your breath will smell as if you’d been French kissing your dead grandmother.” —Anthony Bourdain, Chef and Host of Parts Unknown

12. “On first tasting it, I thought it like the flesh of some animal in a state of putrefaction, but after four or five trials I found the aroma exquisite.” —Henri Mouhot, French Naturalist, in Travels in the Central Parts of Indo-China: Siam, Cambodia, and Laos, During the Years 1858, 1859, and 1860

13. “[Like] eating ice cream in an outhouse.” —As reported in Jerry Hopkins's Strange Foods

14. “I must say that I have never tasted anything more delicious. But not everyone can enjoy or appreciate this strange fruit for the disgusting smell that distinguishes it and that is apt to cause nausea to a weak stomach. Imagine to have under your nose a heap of rotten onion and you will still have but a faint idea of the insupportable odour which emanates from these trees and when its fruit is opened the offensive smell becomes even stronger.” —Giovanni Battista Cerruti, Italian Explorer, in 1908's My Friends the Savages

15. “It tastes like completely rotten mushy onions.” —Andrew Zimmern, Host of Bizarre Foods

16. “Like eating raspberry blancmange in the lavatory.” —Anthony Burgess, Novelist

17. “A rich custard highly flavored with almonds gives the best general idea of it, but there are occasional wafts of flavor that call to mind cream-cheese, onion-sauce, sherry-wine, and other incongruous dishes." —Alfred Russel Wallace, 19th-century British Naturalist

18. “You will either be overcome, seduced by its powerful, declarative presence, or reject it outright. And run screaming." —Monica Tan, The Guardian Journalist

19. “Carrion in custard.” —A “Governor of the Straits” quoted in 1903's Hobson-Jobson: A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words and phrases, and of kindred terms, etymological, historical, geographical and discursive

20. “Yes, I freely admit that when ripe it can smell like a dead animal. Yes, the fruit is difficult to handle, bearing likeness to a medieval weapon. But get down to the pale yellow, creamy flesh, and you’ll experience overtones of hazelnut, apricot, caramelized banana and egg custard. That’s my attempt at describing durian. But words fail; there is no other fruit like it.” —Thomas Fuller, New York Times Journalist

What Is Nougat?

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iStock.com/InaTs

If you've ever had a Snickers, Three Musketeers, or Milky Way bar, you know what nougat tastes like. The sweet, creamy concoction can range in texture from chewy to fluffy, and it is the star ingredient in many popular candy bars. But aside from being delicious, what is nougat exactly?

In its simplest form, nougat is made of two basic ingredients: egg whites and a sweetener, traditionally sugar or honey. The signature texture comes from how it's prepared. Like a meringue, eggs and sugar are whipped together quickly until the mixture is aerated and stiff.

Nougat predates mass-produced candy bars, with the confection originating in the Middle East around the 8th century. It spread to southern Europe and gained widespread popularity in 17th-century France. Nougat is still a common component in many Middle Eastern desserts today, and torrone, a type of nougat containing nuts like almonds and pistachios, is enjoyed in Italy around Christmastime.

As more large candy companies have embraced nougat, its quality has suffered over the years, with corn syrup often standing in for the sweetener. But you don't need to head to the candy aisle of your local supermarket to get your nougat fix. If you have eggs and honey in your kitchen, you can make nougat at home today.

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