14 Single-Scoops You Didn't Know About Baskin-Robbins

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Even if you've sampled all 31 flavors at Baskin-Robbins, there are probably a few things you don’t know about the franchise.

1. BASKIN AND ROBBINS WERE IN-LAWS.

image of the balloons outside a Baskin Robbins restaurant celebrating its 70th anniversary
Rachel Murray, Getty Images

Irv Robbins grew up working in his dad’s ice cream shop, The Olympic Store. After he got out of the military in 1945, he opened a store of his own—Snowbird Ice Cream store in Glendale, California. When his brother-in-law Burt Baskin got out of the military shortly thereafter, he also decided to try his hand in the ice cream biz, and opened Burton's Ice Cream in Pasadena. They had eight stores between them just eight years later, and decided to combine forces into a single chain.

2. THEY FLIPPED A COIN TO SEE WHOSE NAME WOULD COME FIRST.

image of a hand flipping a coin
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Despite the Burton's Ice Cream and Snowbird Ice Cream merger, the franchise didn't become Baskin-Robbins until 1953. The brothers-in-law flipped a coin to see whose name would come first in the company. It just as easily could have been Robbins-Baskin.

3. THERE ARE WAY MORE THAN 31 FLAVORS.

image of a child looking at the flavors inside an ice cream counter
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It may be famous for its "31 Flavors," which is intended to represent a flavor for every day of the month, but the company has actually featured more than 1000 flavors over the years. Their top sellers, however, remain pretty basic: vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, pralines and cream, and chocolate chip.

4. AND SPEAKING OF PRALINES AND CREAM …

image of someone scooping from a vat of praline dessert
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The company claims Irv and Irma Robbins invented the now-classic flavor. They had just returned from a New Orleans vacation and were snacking on some souvenir pralines when a light bulb went off. They mixed the nuts in with vanilla ice cream, then added a drizzle of caramel. The flavor was so good that they put it in stores, and it became one of their all-time best-selling flavors. They even ran out at some stores, prompting ice cream-addicted Americans to send petitions to the Baskin-Robbins headquarters. In 1985, the company sued Häagen-Dazs for adding pralines and cream to their lineup.

5. ROBBINS CAME UP WITH A BEATLE-THEMED FLAVOR ON THE SPOT.

image of the Beatles (the musical group, not the insect)
William Lovelace/Stringer, Getty Images

Just before the Beatles came to the U.S. for their first big tour, a Washington Post reporter called Robbins to ask what special promotion he had cooked up for the occasion. "Nothing," was the real answer, but Robbins quickly improvised, telling the reporter that "Beatle Nut" was on the way. The company scrambled to get the flavor created, made, and delivered in five days.

6. THAT'S NOT THE ONLY SPECIAL-EVENT FLAVOR.

image of President Gerald Ford standing in front of an American flag and pointing toward an audience
AFP/Stringer, Getty Images

Other special-occasion flavors include Baseball Nut, invented when the Dodgers moved to L.A.; 0031 Secret Bonded during the James Bond craze; and Lunar Cheesecake for the 1969 moon landing. For America's bicentennial in 1976, the company produced Valley Forge Fudge for President Ford to enjoy.

7. NOT ALL FLAVORS MAKE IT TO CONSUMERS.

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Among the flavors that were tested but never mass-produced: Ketchup, Grape Britain, and Lox and Bagels.

8. IRV ROBBINS WAS REALLY INTO ICE CREAM.

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Not only did he have an ice cream cone-shaped swimming pool, he also named his boat "32nd Flavor." And it was easy to spot Robbins driving around L.A.—his vanity plates read "31BR." He said people would occasionally spot the plates and stop him to ask for ice cream.

9. ROBBINS ALSO LIKED EATING ICE CREAM.

image of vanilla ice cream sitting on top of a bowl of what could be cereal, but probably isn't
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He liked to "douse" his morning bowl of cereal with banana ice cream and went through a quart every few days. The Robbins house in Rancho Mirage, California, came equipped with a six-flavor ice cream dispenser.

10. SOMETIMES IN-STORE PROMOTIONS AREN'T ALL THEY'RE "QUACKED" UP TO BE.

image of wine glasses filled with red champagne
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Robbins was particularly fond of a refreshing "Cold Duck" ice cream flavor, which tasted similar to cold duck sparkling wine. It had to be scrapped, however, when Japanese stores promoted it by hanging dead ducks from the ceiling. "We almost collapsed," Robbins said.

11. LOTS OF CELEBRITIES HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED BY BASKIN-ROBBINS.

image of a plaque marking Michelle and Barack Obama's first kiss at a Baskin Robbins
Scott Olson, Getty Images

Plenty of people scooped ice cream at BR before they went on to bigger and better things. The illustrious lineup has included Barack Obama, Julia Roberts, Taryn Manning, and Eric Dane. Obama has quite a history with Baskin-Robbins—he and Michelle experienced both their first date and their first kiss at a store in Chicago (which has since been commemorated with a historical marker-esque plaque).

12. HOWARD HUGHES WAS BRIEFLY OBSESSED WITH THE BANANA NUT FLAVOR.

image of Howard Hughes standing next to some other guy
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Howard Hughes, as we know now, was practically the poster child for OCD. So it's not terribly surprising to learn that when he developed a liking for a certain Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavor, he really developed a liking for it. When the billionaire found out Baskin-Robbins had discontinued his favorite flavor, banana nut, he ordered 100 gallons. The ice cream had to be stored down in the kitchens of the Desert Inn (the hotel where he was living)—and it was a real hassle when Hughes decided he preferred French Vanilla just a few months later. "Somewhere at the D.I., they still might have old gallons of unopened banana nut," ex-Desert Inn president Burton Cohen said in 2000.

13. BURT BASKIN DIED OF A HEART ATTACK IN 1967.

image of the exterior of a Baskin Robbins restaurant
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You've probably noticed that all of these stories center around Robbins, not Baskin. That's because Baskin passed away at the age of 54, just six months after selling the company to United Fruit Co. for $12 million.

14. IRV'S SON JOHN WALKED AWAY FROM THE BASKIN-ROBBINS EMPIRE.

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Not only did Irv's son refuse to be groomed for the position of Baskin-Robbins heir, he actively lobbies against the dairy industry. "My father told me he believed that I was very intelligent, very sincere, and very crazy," John Robbins has said. Once, when his father sought out medical help for health problems like diabetes and heart disease later in his life, his doctors unwittingly handed him a copy of Diet for a New America—a book on healthy eating written by John.

A version of this list first ran in 2016.

You Can Now Order—and Donate—Girl Scout Cookies Online

It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
It's OK if you decide to ignore the recommended serving size on a box of these beauties.
Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts may have temporarily suspended both cookie booths and door-to-door sales to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be deprived of your annual supply of everyone’s favorite boxed baked goods. Instead, you can now order Thin Mints, Tagalongs, and all the other classic cookies online—or donate them to local charities.

When you enter your ZIP code on the “Girl Scouts Cookie Care” page, it’ll take you to a digital order form for the nearest Girl Scouts organization in your area. Then, simply choose your cookies—which cost $5 or $6 per box—and check out with your payment and shipping information. There’s a minimum of four boxes for each order, and shipping fees vary based on quantity.

Below the list of cookies is a “Donate Cookies” option, which doesn’t count toward your own order total and doesn’t cost any extra to ship. You get to choose how many boxes to donate, but the Girl Scouts decide which kinds of cookies to send and where exactly to send them (the charity, organization, or group of people benefiting from your donation is listed on the order form). There’s a pretty wide range of recipients, and some are specific to healthcare workers—especially in regions with particularly large coronavirus outbreaks. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York, for example, are sending donations to NYC Health + Hospitals, while the Girl Scouts of Western Washington have simply listed “COVID-19 Responders” as their recipients.

Taking their cookie business online isn’t the only way the Girl Scouts are adapting to the ‘stay home’ mandates happening across the country. They’ve also launched “Girl Scouts at Home,” a digital platform filled with self-guided activities so Girl Scouts can continue to learn skills and earn badges without venturing farther than their own backyard. Resources are categorized by grade level and include everything from mastering the basics of coding to building a life vest for a Corgi (though the video instructions for that haven’t been posted yet).

“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” Girl Scouts of the USA CEO Sylvia Acevedo said in a press release. “And today we are stepping forward with new initiatives to help girls, their families, and consumers connect, explore, find comfort, and take action.”

You can order cookies here, and explore “Girl Scouts at Home” here.

Can't Find Yeast? Grow Your Own at Home With a Sourdough Starter

Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images
Dutodom, iStock via Getty Images

Baking bread can relieve stress and it requires long stretches of time at home that many of us now have. But shoppers have been panic-buying some surprising items since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. In addition to pantry staples like rice and beans, yeast packets are suddenly hard to find in grocery stores. If you got the idea to make homemade bread at the same time as everyone on your Instagram feed, don't let the yeast shortage stop you. As long as you have flour, water, and time, you can grow your own yeast at home.

While many bread recipes call for either instant yeast or dry active yeast, sourdough bread can be made with ingredients you hopefully already have on hand. The key to sourdough's unique, tangy taste lies in its "wild" yeast. Yeast is a single-celled type of fungus that's abundant in nature—it's so abundant, it's floating around your home right now.

To cultivate wild yeast, you need to make a sourdough starter. This can be done by combining one cup of flour (like whole grain, all-purpose, or a mixture of the two) with a half cup of cool water in a bowl made of nonreactive material (such as glass, stainless steel, or food-grade plastic). Cover it with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it sit in a fairly warm place (70°F to 75°F) for 24 hours.

Your starter must be fed with one cup of flour and a half cup of water every day for five days before it can be used in baking. Sourdough starter is a living thing, so you should notice is start to bubble and grow in size over time (it also makes a great low-maintenance pet if you're looking for company in quarantine). On the fifth day, you can use your starter to make dough for sourdough bread. Here's a recipe from King Arthur Flour that only calls for starter, flour, salt, and water.

If you just want to get the urge to bake out of your system, you can toss your starter once you're done with it. If you plan on making sourdough again, you can use the same starter indefinitely. Starters have been known to live in people's kitchens for decades. But to avoid using up all your flour, you can store yours in the fridge after the first five days and reduce feedings to once a week.

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