‘Freedom of Expression’ ice cream voting April 10-12

The inaugural academic theme year, “The Indispensable Condition: Freedom of Expression at Cornell,” has touched nearly every aspect of university life – even dessert.

From April 10-12, ice cream aficionados will get several opportunities to taste and vote on their favorite of three new student-developed flavors, crafted to help celebrate freedom of expression.

Freedom of Expression

“Including a food-themed project in the ‘Freedom of Expression’ activities carries a special significance,” said Carmen Moraru, professor and chair of the Department of Food Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). “It allowed students from across campus and majors to freely express their individual preferences and values through food, vigorously advocate for them in front of their peers and judges, understand the complexities and challenges associated with making food, and ultimately help build a stronger campus community.”

The winning ice cream will be served on campus later this semester and at Commencement.

“As an educator, when you give a student a concept that’s abstract, that they have to convert into something physical, that’s hard – it’s a challenge,” said Chris Loss ’96, M.S. ’01, Ph.D. ’06, the Louis Pasteur Lecturer in Food Science (CALS). “And for that matter, it’s just as challenging to evaluate.”

From left to right, Coming Out of Your Shell, Toni S’Morrison and Brewing CommuniTea ice creams.

Community members will get several chances to evaluate the three finalist flavors – “Brewing CommuniTea,” “Coming Out of Your Shell” and “Toni S’Morrison” – then vote to help decide the winner. Voting will occur through an electronic form, open during tasting hours, which are:

  • April 10: Noon to 2 p.m., Stocking Hall; and 6-7:30 p.m., Toni Morrison Hall, Multipurpose Room;
  • April 11: Noon to 2 p.m., Ho Plaza (backup: Willard Straight Hall Memorial Room); and 6-7:30 p.m., Flora Rose House, Common Room/Patio; and
  • April 12: Noon to 2 p.m., Ag Quad East (backup: Mann Library lobby).

Student teams in Loss’ Science and Technology of Foods (Food Science 1101) introductory class developed the flavors last fall as creative takes on the universitywide theme year. Loss said the exercise – developing an idea, then the flavors that helped tell their freedom of expression “story” – was challenging on multiple levels.

“You can see where students come up against barriers and then get over them,” he said. “Whether it has to do with some technical aspect – an ingredient function or processing function problem – or maybe it’s a group dynamics thing, which is almost inevitable. Especially given this theme, you could see how that would automatically make its own educational ‘sauce,’ so to speak.”

Team members will be available to describe their creations during tasting hours.

The finalists:

Brewing CommuniTea bows to the rich history of tea-drinking customs, embraces the diverse and expressive nature of contemporary society, and recalls nuance of cultural expression, the team said. Caramel swirls and buttery shortbread pieces are scattered through an Earl Grey tea base.

Team member Marcus Iong ’27, a food science major (CALS), said the group tossed around several ideas before settling on a tea-based ice cream, for which they had the flavor but no name. They knew that many of the Dairy Bar flavors were plays on words, and came up with theirs in looking at the history of tea-drinking.

“There is this social aspect of tea shared across the world,” Iong said. “People come together, prepare tea, share it and talk with each other. We wanted to pay respect to this with the name; we want to have this reminder that the freedom of expression has a larger purpose of sharing ideas and communicating, to foster understanding and connection.”

Team members are Iong, Bill Chen ’27, Lucy Clarke ’27, Rica Craig ’24, Erin DeHollander ’27, Erin Goldsmith ’27, Min Kwon ’27, Ava Maduro ’27, Madeleine Rodoski ’27, Aya Rosen ’27, Demetra Sela ’27 and Jeffrey Xue ’27.

Coming Out of Your Shell is a raspberry blend with a hint of citrus that adds freshness and a pleasing aftertaste. The creators encourage you to express yourself and “come out of your shell”; chocolate flakes represent the broken shell.

“It’s like they said, ‘Let’s literally embody some flavor component of this into it,’” Loss said. “It’s very clever, if you think of it that way, and it’s also familiar.”

Team members are: Roman Dias Pinto ’24, Jonathan Gotian ’24, Kyra Kozin ’24, Nathan Lesser ’24, Ellie Zhang ’24, Kelly Kong ’24, Lauren Elmer ’24, Cecilia Pereira Damasio de Loyola ’26, Will Lin ’24 and Jeffrey Zoyhofski ’24.

Toni S’Morrison pays homage to Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, M.A. ’55. The flavor – featuring crunchy graham chunks and brown butter to add a nutty smokiness – emulates the experience of eating s’mores around a campfire, a dessert that “brings different tastes together through the flame of artistic expression and tested in the fires of criticism,” according to the group’s description.

Team member Sofia Fuertes ’27, a food science major (CALS), admitted that combining the academic theme year with an ice cream flavor was tricky, but said the team succeeded in creating something unique.

“The name ‘Toni S’Morrison’ worked perfectly,” she said. “It paid homage to a famous Cornell alumna whose work brought Black voices to the forefront of the literary world. Her strong opposition to censorship was incredibly inspiring to all of us.

Students taste the final product.

“As for the s’mores aspect,” she said, “it had the balance of both being a widely loved flavor but also hard to come by. The unique combination of flavors and textures made for a delicious final product that everyone could enjoy.”

The team is Fuertes, Noel Davila ’27, Nihar Hegde ’24, David Ovetsky ’24, Elana Pocress ’24, Tucker Poff ’26, Greg Powers ’24 and Trisha Saxena ’27.

President Martha E. Pollack was one of seven judges who tasted entries at the end of the fall semester. The field was originally narrowed to four finalists, but one group’s creation, “Black, White and Big Red All Over” – which featured peanut butter, an allergen – could not be included in the final round of the competition because producing it wasn’t feasible, according to Matthieu Stratton, business administrator in the Department of Food Science.

Brewing CommuniTea team member Sela said even the process of developing their flavor was in keeping with the academic year’s theme.

“My team truly encompassed what ‘freedom of expression’ means in terms of collaboration,” Sela said, “as we all come from different backgrounds and were able provide our individual ideas. Ultimately, we combined various aspects of flavors and concepts for a cohesive flavor, based in community.”

Loss said the students’ abilities to communicate the flavor profiles of their creations is always an important aspect of the class.

“What are the physical and chemical properties of this thing?” he said. “And how might that affect the multimodality of flavor? And how do my preferences affect how I perceive these things? Because we all live in our own flavor worlds.”

Blaine Friedlander contributed to this report.

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