BY ANNA KANE ’20
On Tuesday, Acting President Sonya Stephens welcomed community members to the unveiling of the first official Mount Holyoke College ice cream flavor, created in partnership with Herrell’s Ice Cream and Bakery in Northampton.
Students, faculty and staff crammed into the Skinner and Oak dining rooms of the Blanchard Dining Commons as Stephens commemorated the opening of the space and prepared to announce the winning flavor. Administrators donned aprons embroidered with “MHC Administration: Here to Serve You,” in preparation to scoop ice cream for tasters. “Ice cream runs deep in the Mount Holyoke tradition. We have it running through our veins,” Stephens said.
Mount Holyoke alumna Ellen Berman ’87 had the original idea to create a special Mount Holyoke ice cream flavor. After first contacting Herrell’s owner, Judy Herrell, about the possibility of designing a custom flavor, Berman encouraged President Stephens to pursue the idea.
On Oct. 4, the day after Mountain Day 2017, Stephens sent an email challenging the campus community to participate in creating a “bold” new flavor to be used at events with the initial hope of unveiling the flavor in time for Founder’s Day. Students brainstormed creative ideas for flavors and names, which could be submitted online. Over 280 flavors were submitted for testing and consideration. Submissions were narrowed down to the top five , and then to the top three.
At the unveiling, creators of the top three flavors were each presented with engraved Mount Holyoke spoons. The first flavor, named “M&Cs,” was a high-definition vanilla ice cream with chocolate chip cookie dough and caramel swirls, submitted by Lydia Henning ’21. “Goose Tracks,” which consisted of red raspberry, black raspberry and tart cherry ice cream with hazelnut swirl, was created in honor of Jorge the goose by Pax Carberry ’19. But it was the third submission, which was also named M&Cs, that won the grand prize: M&Cs by Nicole Palmer ’19 has a Chef Jeff cookie ice cream base with gingersnap cookies mixed in.
Palmer was surprised to hear her name called at the unveiling, but upon tasting the ice cream, found it to be very similar to what she had imagined.
“I spent a lot of time coming up with flavors, and I knew I wanted to do an M&Cs flavor because it’s very traditional. I thought that gingersnap cookies were pretty different, but could still be a great addition to ice cream,” she said.
The ideas for the new ice cream flavor were narrowed down over the course of the semester by a special committee made up of students and administrators. In December, Stephens and Dean Marcella Runell Hall joined Lisa Garrity ’19, Madison Richards ’18 and Grace Wheeler ’18 to taste and vote on the three top ice cream flavors that students submitted in the fall semester. During their visit, the tasters were photographed as they tried each ice cream flavor. They learned about Herrell’s extensive ice cream making process before participating in a blind vote.
Richards, who is lactose intolerant, had her own special maple pecan almond milk ice cream while President Stevens, Dean Hall and fellow students tasted the flavor options. She was, however, involved in the voting process and served as the tiebreaker for the vote.
“I voted according to appearance, the looks on my fellow tasters’ faces when they tried each flavor and what I thought would be most appealing to the general Mount Holyoke population,” she said.
“The winner was very clear at the tasting, even though the voting was secret,” said Wheeler.
Judy Herrell was so impressed with the results of the flavor contest that one of the other finalists’ ideas will be served in Herrell’s Northampton store, Stephens said. The recipe will be changed slightly, but the winner of that Mount Holyoke flavor will be informed when the flavor is announced in coming months, she said. Herrell’s already sells a flavor for Smith College called Mountain Day — a blend of apple cinnamon ice cream with caramel and English toffee.
The M&Cs ice cream flavor will be available at Mount Holyoke during traditional school events such as Founder’s Day and Mountain Day, but many students are eager to indulge in the flavor more often than that.
Richards said, “I am really hoping that the new MHC flavor will also be routinely featured as a dessert in our beautiful new dining center. I think that would be a lovely way to make it part of the Mount Holyoke identity.”