Soft Serve is to Creemees as Soda is to Pop
You come to Vermont. You decide to get ice cream. You approach the ice cream stand and on the menu you see this item called a “creemee”. Though the picture looks like soft serve, the name suggests something completely different. So what’s the deal? What’s with this Vermont creemee business?
So you are right: creemees are essentially soft serve ice cream. It’s ice cream pumped through a machine to make it more airy and soft. Simple enough.
Now take a deep dive into the history and etymology of this Vermont summer staple, and that is when everything becomes a bit more complicated.
History of the Soft Serve
The inventor of soft serve ice cream has long been disputed.
There’s the story of how Thomas Carvel frantically sold melted ice cream from his broken down truck on Memorial Day in 1934, later developing a super secret soft serve recipe to mimic his surprising success. Or there is Dairy Queen’s claim, when in 1938 DQ founders, J.F. McCullough and his son Alex, developed a special soft ice cream for a friend’s store in Kansas. Perhaps the most out-there of origin stories involves Margaret Thatcher, who worked briefly as a food chemist for food manufacturer J. Lyons and Co around the same time they had a partnership with Mr. Whippy where they invented a machine that pumped extra air into ice cream.
Even more disputed than soft serve ice cream’s history? Its name–or at least in Vermont.
Why a "Creemee"?
The origin for the word is murky. You might claim it came from the fact Vermont used to make their ice cream with a much higher butterfat content, leaving the ice cream with a creamier texture. Or perhaps more simply, Vermont got ahold of a soft serve ice cream machine seven decades ago and started describing the ice cream as “creamy”.
Then there is the debacle about the spelling. You may ask, “Why not creamy or creamee?” Well, we don’t know that either. Someone down the line suggested the name and it stuck.
In addition to your more traditional creemee flavors like chocolate and vanilla, Vermont is renown for its maple creemee. There is a science to creating this Vermont delicacy. Maple creemee makers carefully monitor the proportion of syrup to its buttermilk base to ensure the creemee is not too sweet where customers will be too thirsty to order another cone. And much like how your average cremee is processed, the maple creemee is pumped with air to create those soft, billowy peaks.
Hot tip: Order a maple and black raspberry twist