I love Michael K of the snarky, scathing celeb and pop culture blog Dlisted. Every day, he chooses a “Hot Slut of the Day!” to honor and hilariously, today it was the ice cream confection Viennetta.
As a child, I was certainly taken in by the mass-produced dessert with its airs of being exquisite, elegant, vaguely European. It was rather pretentious for something that came in your grocer’s freezer, but it was a time of excess: big hair, big shoulder pads, big money. Investment bankers out of a Brett Easton Ellis novel wearing suspenders and slicked back hair might’ve eaten it off of supermodel’s asses in the bathrooms at Tunnel.
A few years ago, while reminiscing or making some pop culture reference joke as we are prone to do, my friend Steven and I got to thinking about Viennetta and how long it had been since we’d had it and how delightful we found it as children. We then proceeded to go into every grocery store and bodega around the East Village and Union Square in search of it.
After a few places, we both knew it was probably a lost cause. Why would they stock something no one has thought about in 15 years? The demand for people who suddenly remembered it existed and wanted to try it again out of some sense of kitsch and nostalgia probably wasn’t enough to keep it in production, it seemed.
But I hate being told I can’t have something especially when it comes to food, so I emailed Breyers to get to the bottom of it:
Whatever happened to Viennetta? As a young girl, I fell in love with this elegant yet accessible dessert– the lacy, arabesque folds of ice cream between thin, crisp layers of chocolate danced on my taste buds like an ice cream dream. To my dismay, during a recent expedition to satiate my longing for said treat, I was unable to find it at any grocery store. Has this product been discontinued in the United States? Say it ain’t so!
I received the following response:
Response (Consumer Help Desk) – 01/10/2006 09:28 AM
Thank you very much for contacting us. I am sorry to inform you that the Breyers Viennetta has been discontinued.
Many factors contribute to a decision to discontinue a flavor or product, but they all boil down to the fact that we didn’t sell enough of the flavor or product to keep producing it. We know that you did your part to keep the flavor or product in production. Please understand that we would rather not disappoint any of our consumers.
So it was true. We would never again be able to enjoy the premium ice cream and the crisp chocolatey layers. But that summer, I traveled with my parents to China and there, under the communist government’s nose, Viennetta, surely a symbol of all that was decadent and Western, was alive and well! In China, it was called “Thousand Layered Snow,” and came in individual portions on popsicle sticks (not in crystal bowls.) There, it had become a dessert of the people.
In 2008, perhaps after receiving enough messages from ridiculous people like me, Unilever brought Viennetta back to the United States, but it wasn’t the same. Instead of Breyers ice cream, it was made with nonfat milk, sugars, whey, cocoa, propylene glycol monoesters, cellulose gels, mono and diglycerides, locust bean gum, polysorbate 80, guar gum, natural flavor and carrageenan.
It was only available for a little less than a year. I never tried it. It didn’t seem right. Perhaps one day, the real thing will come back and we’ll all celebrate by dusting off our finest crystal bowls and slicing into a little piece of heaven. There’s just one problem: one slice is never enough.