20 Things You Didn't Know About Dairy Queen

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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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

9. WARREN BUFFETT LOVES DAIRY QUEEN.

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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
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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 "Tony"
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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

Graham Crackers Were Invented to Combat the Evils of Coffee, Alcohol, and Masturbation

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tatniz/iStock via Getty Images

Long before they were used to make s’mores or the tasty crust of a Key lime pie, graham crackers served a more puritanical purpose in 19th-century America. The cookies were invented by Sylvester Graham, an American Presbyterian minister whose views on food, sex, alcohol, and nutrition would seem a bit extreme to today's cracker-snackers. Much like the mayor in the movie Chocolat, Graham and his thousands of followers—dubbed Grahamites—believed it was sinful to eat decadent foods. To combat this moral decay, Graham started a diet regimen of his own.

Graham ran health retreats in the 1830s that promoted a bland diet that banned sugar and meat. According to Refinery29, Graham's views ultimately inspired veganism in America as well as the “first anti-sugar crusade.” He condemned alcohol, tobacco, spices, seasoning, butter, and "tortured" refined flour. Caffeine was also a no-no. In fact, Graham believed that coffee and tea were just as bad as tobacco, opium, or alcohol because they created a “demand for stimulation.” However, the worst vice, in Graham's opinion, was overeating. “A drunkard sometimes reaches old age; a glutton never,” he once wrote.

Graham’s austere philosophy was informed by the underlying belief that eating habits affect people’s behaviors, and vice versa. He thought certain foods were "overstimulating" and led to impure thoughts and passions, including masturbation—or “self-pollution,” as he called it—which he believed to be an epidemic that caused both blindness and insanity.

Illustration of Sylvester Graham
Library of Congress, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Graham's views directly influenced Victorian-era corn flake inventor John Harvey Kellogg, who was born a year after Graham died. Like his predecessor, Kellogg also believed that meat and some flavorful foods led to sexual impulses, so he advocated for the consumption of plain foods, like cereals and nuts, instead. (Unsurprisingly, the original recipes for both corn flakes and graham crackers were free of sinful sugar.)

In one lecture, Graham told young men they could stop their minds from wandering to forbidden places if they avoided “undue excitement of the brain and stomach and intestines.” This meant swearing off improper foods and substances like tobacco, caffeine, pepper, ginger, mustard, horseradish, and peppermint. Even milk was banned because it was “too exciting and too oppressive.”

So what could Graham's followers eat? The core component of Graham’s diet was bread made of coarsely ground wheat or rye, unlike the refined white flour loaves that were sold in bakeries at that time. From this same flour emerged Graham's crackers and muffins, both of which were common breakfast foods. John Harvey Kellogg was known to have eaten the crackers and apples for breakfast, and one of his first attempts at making cereal involved soaking twice-baked cracker bits in milk overnight.

Slices of rye bread, a jug of milk, apples and ears of corn on sackcloth, wooden table
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However, Kellogg was one of the few remaining fans of Graham’s diet, which began to fall out of favor in the 1840s. At Ohio’s Oberlin College, a Grahamite was hired in 1840 to strictly enforce the school’s meal plans. One professor was fired for bringing a pepper shaker to the dining hall, and the hunger-stricken students organized a protest the following year, arguing that the Graham diet was “inadequate to the demands of the human system as at present developed.” Ultimately, the Grahamite and his tyrannical nutrition plan were kicked out.

Much like Kellogg’s corn flakes, someone else stepped in and corrupted Graham’s crackers, molding them into the edible form we now know—and, yes, love—today. In Graham’s case, it was the National Biscuit Company, which eventually became Nabisco; the company started manufacturing graham crackers in the 1880s. But Graham would likely be rolling in his grave if he knew they contained sugar and white flour—and that they're often topped with marshmallows and chocolate for a truly decadent treat.

7 Tasty Facts About Tater Tots

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bhofack2, iStock via Getty Images

Whether you associate them with your school cafeteria, your childhood home, or your local dive bar, tater tots are ubiquitous. Creamy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the bite-sized pellets rival French fries for the title of most delicious potato product. But they’re more than just a tasty side dish—they’re also an upcycling success story, a casserole ingredient, and one of the few foods that’s more popular frozen than fresh. Here are some more facts about tater tots you should know.

1. The first Tater Tots were made from French fry scraps.

Brothers F. Nephi Grigg and Golden Grigg founded the Oregon Frozen Foods Company, later known as Ore-Ida, in Ontario, Oregon, in 1952. One of their first items was frozen French fries, and after seeing all the potato scraps they had leftover, they came up with an idea. By chopping up the potato parts, seasoning them, and molding them into pellets, they were able to create a new product. With help from a thesaurus, they landed on the name tater tot and debuted their creation in 1954.

2. Tater Tots are the main ingredient in Hotdish casserole.

Hotdish casserole with tater tots.
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Tater tots are typically served as an appetizer or a side dish, but in certain states, they’re part of the main course. Hotdish follows the long Midwestern tradition of tossing whatever’s in the kitchen into a casserole. It’s made by mixing together ground beef and frozen vegetables and topping it with a layer of tater tots before baking the whole dish in the oven. It’s a hearty match for Midwestern winters, plus, it’s a way to sneak more tots into your diet.

3. The name Tater Tot is trademarked.

If the golden nugget of potato-y goodness you’re eating is not Ore-Ida brand, it’s not really a tater tot. The Grigg brothers trademarked the catchy name shortly after developing the product, and Ore-Ida still holds its trademark on tater tots today. This doesn’t stop people using it as a catch-all term for the generic version of the food. Ore-Ida tried to combat this in 2014 by running an ad campaign warning customers not to “be fooled by Imi-taters.”

4. Tater Tots have different names around the world.

The all-American tater tot has spread around the globe, but it’s usually sold under a different name abroad. Tot-lovers in New Zealand and Australia may refer to them as potato gems, potato royals, potato pom-poms, or hash bites. The food is so popular in New Zealand that Pizza Hut launched a pie with a hash bite crust there in 2016. In Canada, they’re called tasti taters or spud puppies, and they’ve been labeled oven crunchies in the UK.

5. Homemade tater tot recipes may not be worth it.

Tater tots on a plate served with ketchup.
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Tater tots are the ultimate convenience food—unless you try making them from scratch at home. Recipes online involve peeling and grating pounds of potatoes, frying them once, chilling them overnight, and then shaping them into tots and frying them a second time. Without the streamlined method and equipment of a factory, the process can take 12 hours. Even fine restaurants that feature tater tots on their menus often prefer the taste (and convenience) of the frozen stuff.

6. Idaho praised Napoleon Dynamite for featuring Tater Tots.

Napoleon Dynamite takes place in Idaho, and one of the ways the 2004 film pays tribute to the state is by prominently featuring the tot. The State of Idaho passed a resolution in 2005 commending the makers of the film, specifically thanking them for “promoting Idaho’s most famous export.”

7. The birthplace of the Tater Tot is hosting a Tater Tot festival.

Nearly 70 years after tater tots were invented there, Ontario, Oregon, is honoring its patron potato product by dedicating an entire festival to it in August 2020. The Tater Tot Festival will feature games, food vendors, and a Ferris wheel, plus special events like a tater tot-eating contest and a tater tot-themed play. The fair will end with the crowning of the tater tot festival king and queen.

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