20 Things You Didn't Know About Dairy Queen

iStock
iStock

Whether you're craving a plain vanilla cone or an elaborate banana split, your local Dairy Queen has been the go-to spot for summertime soft-serve since 1940.

1. THE FIRST DQ WAS LOCATED IN JOLIET, ILLINOIS.

black and white photo of a young well-dressed girl eating an ice cream cone
iStock

To promote the new soft-serve store, founder Sherb Noble suggested an "all you can eat for 10 cents" sale. The promotion was so popular, Noble worried that the stampede of customers would break the glass windows of the store front.

2. A "BRAZIER" DAIRY QUEEN IS ONE THAT SERVES HOT FOOD IN ADDITION TO ICE CREAM.

image of hamburger patties on a grill
iStock

A "brazier," by the way, is another word for a charcoal grill.

3. THERE'S A RHYME AND REASON TO THE COMPANY'S NAME.

image of the parking lot of a Dairy Queen restaurant
iStock

The original store was deemed Dairy Queen because Jack "Grandpa" McCullough, the "driving force" behind DQ's soft serve, said his creation was a queen among dairy products.

4. DAIRY QUEEN'S SOFT SERVE RECIPE IS A HIGHLY GUARDED TRADE SECRET.

image of file folders with a lock over them
iStock

And just like KFC and Coke, they'll never reveal the ingredients. "[The formula] is kept in a safe deposit box and there are only a few keys to it," DQ's chief branding officer, Michael Keller, has said.

5. NO DOUBT FORMED AT A DAIRY QUEEN IN 1986.

image of No Doubt band members at a Super Bowl performance
Donald Miralle, Getty Images

Gwen Stefani and her brother Eric worked with other founding member John Spence at an Anaheim store, where they discussed forming a band. Other celebrity DQ employees include former Attorney General John Ashcroft, actress Bonnie Hunt, and singer Martina McBride.

6. THOUGH DAIRY QUEEN HAS BEEN AROUND SINCE 1940, IT DIDN'T INTRODUCE ITS TRADEMARK BLIZZARDS UNTIL 1985.

the one image of a Dairy Queen blizzard available on stock photo websites
Andrew Burton, Getty Images

They sold more than 175 million Blizzards in the very first year.

7. MANY FRANCHISES TURN BLIZZARDS UPSIDE DOWN IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS BEFORE SERVING.

image of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates holding DQ blizzards upside down
Frederic J. Brown, Getty Images

It's proof of how thick and delicious their soft-serve is—but it's also a total marketing gimmick. Some stores offer the treat for free if the employee fails to perform the trick.

You can credit a teenage boy in Missouri for inspiring the practice. In the 1950s, Ted Drewes Jr. ran a frozen custard stand located in St. Louis, where he sold concretes—frozen custard mixed with bits of fruit. In 1959, 14-year-old Steve Gamber made a habit of visiting Drewes's stand nearly every day and asking for a chocolate malt. Every time Drewes handed it to him, Gamber would ask for him to make it thicker.

Eventually, Gamber said, Drewes got fed up and started turning it upside down "just to shut me up." But the tradition lasted, and Drewes began turning every customer's concrete upside down before serving it. In the 1970s, Dairy Queen franchisee Sam Temperato, who owned several DQ restaurants in St. Louis, took notice of both Drewes's concretes and cheeky presentation and went to Dairy Queen executives with the proposal for the first Blizzard. (Ted Drewes, meanwhile, is still a St. Louis institution.)

8. THE GREEN TEA BLIZZARD IS THE #1 SELLER IN CHINA.

image of green tea matcha powder crushed on a table
iStock

In the U.S., the most popular Blizzard is Oreo.

9. WARREN BUFFETT LOVES DAIRY QUEEN.

image of Warren Buffett gesturing toward an audience
Paul Morigi, Getty Images

Of course, he owns it—at least, Berkshire Hathaway does—but he really supports the product. Once, while dining at the Four Seasons in New York City, he asked staff to pick him up some DQ ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately, the city didn't have a DQ location at the time, so he had to settle for some cookies.

10. DQ SOLD A FROZEN YOGURT OPTION IN THE '90S, BUT IT DIDN'T CATCH ON.

image of a bowl of frozen yogurt and fruit
iStock

You may remember the Breeze, a lower-calorie Blizzard alternative that was made with frozen yogurt. It was around for about a decade before the company pulled it from the menu, saying demand was so low that the frozen yogurt would often go bad before it could be used.

11. DALLAS MAVERICKS OWNER MARK CUBAN ANGERED DAIRY QUEEN EMPLOYEES ACROSS THE NATION IN 2002.

image of Mark Cuban at a DQ restaurant holding an ice cream cone and wearing a nametag that says
Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

Cuban suggested that Ed Rush, the NBA's head of officiating, wasn't even capable of managing a Dairy Queen. In response, the company invited the billionaire to give it a shot himself—and he accepted their offer. Wearing a "Tony" nametag, Cuban spent two hours serving customers at a Dairy Queen in Coppell, Texas, in 2002. He had trouble perfecting the trademark "Q" swirl at the top of soft-serve cones.

12. TECHNICALLY, WHEN YOU ORDER A CONE OR CUP AT DAIRY QUEEN, YOU'RE NOT GETTING ICE CREAM.

image of a soft serve ice cream cone
iStock

According to the company, "Our soft-serve does not qualify to be called ice cream. To be categorized as ice cream, the minimum butterfat content must be 10 percent, and our soft-serve has only 5 percent butterfat."

13. THE DILLY BAR WAS INVENTED IN 1955.

The soft-serve round coated in chocolate and finished with that signature Dairy Queen swirl was introduced to the franchise by Robert Litherland, the co-owner of a store in Moorhead, Minnesota. Employees of an ice cream distributor in Minneapolis showed up at Litherland's door to demonstrate the technique, and finished by holding up the completed bar and saying, "Now, isn't that a dilly!" The name stuck, though Litherland had one regret: "We weren't smart enough to copyright that name." Too bad; it's been getting plenty of use elsewhere lately.

14. THE "MOOLATTE" ICE CREAM TREAT GENERATED SOME CONTROVERSY.

image of a frappucino sitting on a table
iStock

When DQ rolled out the MooLatte frozen coffee drink in 2004, more than a few eyebrows were raised at the made-up word's similarity to the slur "mulatto." But the controversy wasn't enough to squash the product; it's still around today.

15. DENNIS THE MENACE WAS THE COMPANY SPOKESTOON UNTIL 2002.

When the copyright license expired, Dairy Queen chose not to renew it. It's been speculated that company execs felt Dennis was no longer a character kids related to.

16. THERE WAS ONCE A "LITTLE MISS DAIRY QUEEN."

Clad in a Dutch-style cap, dress, and shoes, Little Miss Dairy Queen was featured as a 5-foot weather vane in a select few locations. Most are gone now, but see if you can spot one on your next road trip.

17. THE WORLD'S LARGEST BLIZZARD WEIGHED 8260.85 POUNDS.

image of soft serve ice cream with Snickers bars mixed inside
iStock

It was made in 2005 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Guinness doesn't specify the flavor, but if we had to guess, we'd say it was Oreo.

18. DAIRY QUEEN ALSO HOLDS THE RECORD FOR THE WORLD'S LARGEST ICE CREAM CAKE.

image of a slice of ice cream cake
iStock

Made of sponge cake and vanilla ice cream, the dessert was constructed in Toronto in 2011. It weighed more than 10 tons and was topped with a ridiculous amount of crushed Oreo cookies.

19. SAUDI ARABIA REALLY LOVES DAIRY QUEEN.

image of the exterior of a DQ restuarant
Win McNamee, Getty Images

It must, anyway—otherwise, Berkshire Hathaway wouldn't have opened the world's largest Dairy Queen in Riyadh. The two-level restaurant is 7500 square feet and can seat 240 customers.

20. THE BLIZZARDMOBILE WAS A THING.

image of an ice cream truck
iStock

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Blizzard in 2010, DQ took a cue from Oscar Mayer and rolled out the Blizzardmobile, a large truck that stopped at 25 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The truck distributed free mini Blizzards and conducted various games for coupons and prizes.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Anti-Pasta: When Italian Futurists Tried to Ban Pasta in Italy

A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
A pasta vendor in Naples during the late 19th or early 20th century.
Carlo Brogi, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

While speaking at a multi-course banquet in Milan on November 15, 1930, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti presented his fellow Italians with an incendiary call to action. Pasta, he said, was a “passéist food” that “[deluded people] into thinking it [was] nutritious” and made them “heavy, brutish,” “skeptical, slow, [and] pessimistic.” As such, it should be abolished and replaced with rice.

So began an outrageous crusade against the country’s most beloved carbohydrate. Not only did Marinetti's movement elicit passionate reactions on both sides, but it also had some less-than-tenuous ties to Benito Mussolini's fascist regime.

Mr. Rice Guy

Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (center) and his fellow Italian Futurists in Paris in 1912.Proa, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Marinetti’s initial statement spread so widely because he himself loomed large over society at the time. His 1909 “Manifesto of Futurism” launched the Futurist movement, which championed a shift away from the slow, outmoded processes of the past and toward the sleek technologies of the future. Though originally specific to art, Futurism was a nationalist cause at heart—a way for the newly unified country to catch up to other world powers—and it aligned with Mussolini’s fledgling political campaign. In fact, the two men collaborated closely while establishing their respective political parties (Marinetti’s Fasci Politici Futuristi and Mussolini’s Fasci di Combattimento) as World War I came to a close. Marinetti had distanced himself from Mussolini by the early 1920s, but he still invoked Il Duce’s policies when they served his goals.

For the pasta prohibition, they did. To make Italy less reliant on imported wheat, Mussolini’s administration had started promoting rice—which was much easier to produce domestically—over pasta. In the late 1920s, he established the “National Rice Board” and even declared November 1 to be “National Rice Day.” As Philip McCouat writes for the Journal of Art History, the dictator never went so far as to ban macaroni, but citizens were already familiar with anti-pasta sentiment by the time Marinetti began his smear campaign.

On December 28, 1930, the Futurist followed up his dinner speech with the “Manifesto of Futurist Cooking,” co-written with the artist Luigi Colombo (known as “Fillìa”) and published in Turin’s Gazzetta del popolo. In it, they described pasta itself as an “absurd Italian gastronomic religion” and pasta lovers as being “shackled by its ball and chain like convicted lifers or [carrying] its ruins in their stomachs like archaeologists.”

In short, they believed that pasta weighed Italians down and prevented them from achieving any kind of greatness. The ultimate solution was for the government to replace all food with nutritional pills, powders, and other artificial substitutes, but until the chemists could create such innovations, the Futurists would settle for swapping out pasta with rice. “And remember too,” they wrote, “that the abolition of pasta will free Italy from expensive foreign wheat and promote the Italian rice industry.”

Starch Enemies and Allies

While Marinetti’s initial speech had incited a small uprising among Italians, his written manifesto gave the issue a global audience. “Fascist Writer, All Wound Up in Health Subject, Begs Countrymen to Swallow New Theory,” the Chicago Tribune summarized in an article titled “Italy May Down Spaghetti,” which hit newsstands just two days after Marinetti’s manifesto.

Smaller presses covered the bombshell, too. “No, signor. We beseech you, call off your holy war,” Ernest L. Meyer pontificated in Madison, Wisconsin’s The Capital Times. “Would you abolish macaroni and all its tunefully christened cousins—macaroncelli, foratini, maglietti, ditalini, vermicelli—and reduce Italians to the ugly dissonances of beans, cabbage, chops, chard, and chewing gum? Fie, signor, there is no poetry in your soul, and your palate lacks wit.”

Pasta drying in the streets of Naples in 1897.J.F. Jarvis, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

People living everywhere from France to Australia commented on the matter, but nowhere was the response more impassioned than in Italy. Women in the city of L’Aquila sent Marinetti a protest letter, and the mayor of Naples went so far as to proclaim that “the Angels in Paradise eat nothing but vermicelli with tomato sauce.” (Marinetti later retorted that this was simply proof of “the unappetizing monotony of Paradise and of the life of the Angels.”) But Futurism wasn’t unpopular, and the pasta ban had ardent advocates of its own. Italian writer Marco Ramperti, for example, lambasted the beloved repast in a highly imaginative op-ed.

“[Pasta] puffs out our cheeks like grotesque masks on a fountain, it stuffs our gullets as if we were Christmas turkeys, it ties up our insides with its flabby strings; it nails us to the chair, gorged and stupefied, apoplectic and gasping, with [a] sensation of uselessness …” he wrote. “Our thoughts wind round each other, get mixed up and tangled like the vermicelli we’ve taken in.”

The Movement Loses Steam

Marinetti collected the best testimonies from scientists, chefs, and literary firebrands like Ramperti and reproduced them in 1932’s La Cucina Futurista (“The Futurist Cookbook”), which also contained Futurist recipes and instructions for hosting various kinds of Futurist dinner parties. But the 1930s were an exceptionally tumultuous decade for the country—which faced the Great Depression, Adolf Hitler’s growing influence, a war with Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, and eventually World War II—and Italian citizens were focused less on what they were eating and more on simply eating.

Two Neapolitan boys eating plates of pasta, date unknown.Bain News Service, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

Furthermore, Futurism soon ran afoul of fascism. In 1937, Hitler decried modern art as “degenerate,” anti-nationalist, and somehow inherently Jewish. Though Marinetti spoke out against these associations, anti-Semitism had already infected Italy, and fascists started condemning the Futurist movement. Since Mussolini was courting Hitler as an ally, his regime’s ties to Futurism could easily have become a political liability. In 1939, when Marinetti published a fiery denial of Hitler’s accusations in a Futurist journal called Artecrazia, the government forced it to shutter.

So, by the 1940s, Marinetti was no longer spewing consistent vitriol against pasta, Il Duce was no longer supporting the Futurist movement, and the world at large was consumed with much greater threats than linguini-induced languor. And if Marinetti ever entertained fantasies about resurrecting the cause after the war, he never got the chance—he died of a heart attack in December 1944, just months before the deaths of both Mussolini and Hitler the following April.