Superman Ice Cream: “A Michigan Thing”
When Serious Eats described Superman ice cream, my favorite childhood flavor, as “a Michigan Thing,” I was both excited and reassured. Finally, I understood why I could never find it during my time on the East Coast. A few phone calls to out-of-state friends and a quick google search provided validation that Superman ice cream is virtually unknown outside the midwest.
But naturally, I wanted to know more. When was it invented? Who whipped up the original recipe? What is that magical flavor combination?
As for that the last question, the Internet provides a response as varied and contradictory as the interviewees in my video (above). I have scanned message boards and watched creepy videos featuring less-than-sober individuals attempting to isolate Superman’s flavor. The mystery remains.
Pinpointing the origins of Superman ice cream has proven to be equally elusive. The blue appears to descend from Blue Moon, an ice cream originally made in South Haven, Michigan…or Milwaukee, Wisconsin, depending on who you believe. But who was the first to mimic Superman’s colors by mixing the blue with the red and yellow?
The best answer I’ve found so far comes from Jim Karnopp, owner of Ypsilanti’s Cafe Luwak, who says he’s pretty sure the original recipe came from Stroh’s, the famous (now defunct) Detroit brewery, who began producing ice cream during prohibition. So should I thank prohibition for indirectly spawning Superman ice cream? A deliciously bizarre possibility, but one I have been unable to verify through phone calls with representatives of Pabst (current owners of Stroh’s Beer) or Dean Foods (ditto for Stroh’s Ice Cream).
Didn’t the Internet put an end to mysteries like this?
Sure, there will always be BIG unanswerable questions (i.e. “Is there a god?,” “Who shot Kennedy?,” “Is Tom Cruise an alien?,” etc.). But the best thing about the Internet, aside from resurrecting the intro to Small Wonder, is that it put an end to those nagging, oft-debated, previously unverifiable questions. Is there really a University of Michigan flag on the moon? No (sadly). Did Frank Lloyd Wright’s son really invent Lincoln Logs? Yes (surprisingly). But as to the origins of Superman ice cream, the web responds with deafening silence.
Whoever thought it would be Superman ice cream to bring the Internet to its knees.
Well, I may not have definitively identified its birthplace. But I have seen a guy from Owendale reference Superman ice cream while (horribly) rapping about his hometown. I have found a newspaper documenting its poplarity in Monroe in 1989. I’ve even read the blog of a mom from Northern Michigan, who said this—
“Honestly, I can’t imagine raising a child in a world without Superman Ice Cream.”
–and I’ve arrived at the same description Serious Eats had already settled on:
“It’s a Michigan thing.”
Bonus Material from the eDepths (BMfeD): Ever wanted to see a tattoo of a Monkey eating Superman ice cream? Me too. How about a quiet and very sad short film where the main character connects with a dead parent…by eating Superman ice cream? Not so much? How about a cute Baby eating Superman ice cream for the first time? Awwwwwwwww. Never fails.