Artificially Sweet

I wasn’t going to write this, but I have to. Not only for me, but for the good of our children, and our children’s children. No matter how hard it is to address, some things must be done. I’m talking, of course, about the highly controversial issue of homemade ice cream.

Ice cream wasn’t always under scrutiny like it is today. It used to be okay to eat ice cream. But then, suddenly it wasn’t okay, and lots of companies started coming out with healthy frozen yogurt.

A few years later, news reports claimed frozen yogurt was just as bad as ice cream. So they came out with “sugar-free” frozen yogurt, made with “aspartame.” And the world as we knew it fell apart.

Aspartame is actually a lot of fun to say. It sounds like a dirty word, but it isn’t. You can use it in social settings and it’s acceptable.

EXAMPLE: “Have you seen traffic today? It’s a real pain in the aspartame.”

So Americans were eating sugar-free yogurt sludge by the gallon, hoping to live to be one hundred, and doing step aerobics. Companies started going bonkers and making bizarre frozen yogurt flavors like Blackberry-Garbanzo Bean, and Coffee-Bubble Gum, and Toenail.

Then, reports came out with new information claiming aspartame was deadly.

One report stated: “Aspartame turns your bodily fluids into formaldehyde, side effects include: Numbness, tingling, and profound interest in Jazzercise.”

All of a sudden, journalists were telling mankind to stay away from anything that even remotely looked like sugar-free frozen yogurt, and for mankind to eat quinoa and kale instead.

Which is probably why a few months ago, I found two fifty-pound bags of red quinoa in our pantry. It wasn’t long before my wife was feeding me what looked like chicken feed for every meal until sometimes—especially if I sat in one place for too long—grade-A eggs would start appearing beneath my haunches.

But mankind can only go so long without ice cream. So one night, my wife announced that we were having a frozen surprise for dessert. But something was wrong. It wasn’t the real thing. It was fake ice cream.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s frozen coconut milk.”

I took a lick. It was sweet, but not in a good way. It tasted like whatever I had just licked was a food related to the Sheetrock family.

“Why does it taste funny?” I asked.

“It’s a plant-based sweetener.”

“Plant based?”

She showed me the bottle. When she unscrewed the child-proof lid, white dust filled the air and got into my nasal passages and mouth.

Ever since that day I have had this persistent taste in my throat that reminds me of the flavored laughing gas Doctor Bob used when I had a tonsillectomy in first grade.

Speaking of Doctor Bob, do you know how that old man convinced me to agree to a tonsillectomy?

Doctor Bob said: “Sean, the best part about getting your tonsils out is that you get to eat ICE CREAM ALL DAY LONG.”

A boy will do almost anything for ice cream. And Doctor Bob knew exactly what I needed to hear. I agreed to go peacefully. They put me in a little buttless gown and Doctor Bob placed me in the front seat of a miniature Plymouth Belvedere with pedals.

I pedaled myself to the operating room, laughing with Doctor Bob. Just a couple of guys on our way to major surgery, that’s what we were.

When I reached the operating room, I knew I’d been tricked. I saw four men dressed like Winn-Dixie butchers, wearing masks, holding sharp instruments. So I turned my Plymouth around and I got my little aspartame out of there.

But Doctor Bob caught me. By then, I was kicking and screaming for my mother. I was making promises to never play with Granny’s cigarette lighter again, or try to paint the cat, or use the word beginning with the nineteenth letter of the alphabet.

They held me down, placed a rubber mask over my face, and drugged me with scented laughing gas.

And that’s what plant-based sweeteners taste like.

So I don’t want stevia, or quinoa, or frozen yogurt, or Plymouth Belvederes. What I want is for America to go back to a time when ice cream was real, and real people ate it.

I would also like for people to get along. And for dogs to get adopted. And for good music to make its way into the ears of children instead of the hokum that’s out there today.

I’d like for lonely people to find love. And for porches to be built on the fronts of houses instead of the backs. For neighbors to wave at each other.

And most of all, I hope the man who wrote me a hateful email this morning knows that I don’t hold it against him. Because everyone has a bad day. I get it. Sometimes, people just need to let off steam. But if anyone were to ask me, which they didn’t, I think this world needs more homemade ice cream.

And less aspartame.


  1. Mary bowen - September 19, 2021 6:49 am

    My cousin had his tonsils out and when I went to see him at okd Piedmont hospital in Atlanta, he had on a dog collar filled with crushed ice and a pretty nurse was feeding him strawberry ice cream. I wanted it! I wanted the dog collar with ice and the ice cream. So The time came when I had to have my tonsils out and I thought that I’d get that luxury treatment. It it was the morning The Winecoff hotel in Atlanta burned, with awful loss of life, and many burn victims were brought to Piedmont. They put me on a stretcher out in the hall post-op and left me. No dog collar. No crushed ice. No nurse, no strawberry ice cream. I was ten years old. I’m now 85. I’ve been mad about it ever since.

    • Rod - September 19, 2021 2:36 pm

      Thats the best! Great story, made my wife and I have a great belly laugh with your last sentence!

  2. Lisa D - September 19, 2021 7:01 am

    You make me laugh . Smile , cry and everything in between. Your daily reads are a soul saver for me. You see I’m a nurse and it’s Covid. Enough said on that. If I am lucky enough to get through this with my life and some how manage to stay sane it will be because of you and your writing. Keep doing what you do. It matters.

  3. Martha - September 19, 2021 7:05 am

    And also never eat those awful “sweeteners” that make you poop all over your house before you can get to the bathroom……

  4. Vanessa - September 19, 2021 8:05 am

    Dear Sean — my advice for you, regarding the hateful man, is what my dad used to say: “ Just give him a good leavin’ alone.” My guess is that a lot of people leave him alone.
    I love you, Sean and your writing is a bright spot in my every day! Thank you!

  5. Stephen Disney - September 19, 2021 9:53 am


  6. Ellouise Pennington - September 19, 2021 10:01 am

    People need all that and more. They need more of YOU. Thank you, Sean, for a great start to a beautiful Sunday

  7. Joan Moore - September 19, 2021 10:40 am

    Amen, preach it, brother, preach it!

  8. Dawn - September 19, 2021 11:12 am


  9. Ann - September 19, 2021 11:13 am

    We love our real ice cream…and this column…what the world needs now is🎶🎶🎶🎶🍧

  10. Karen - September 19, 2021 11:16 am

    The headline I read before I got to your article was that check-out lines were full of adult throwing tantrums and using 4 letter words. It’s past time for ice cream (real) to be declared the best food in the world for everyone. At the very least every Friday should be IceCream Friday!

  11. Terri Hinds - September 19, 2021 11:43 am

    yes we do, Sean. Thank you for sharing🙏😇💕

  12. Allie Brown - September 19, 2021 11:45 am

    “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 the verse on my computer for today.) Sean, you build us all up with your wit and heartfelt writing. Keep doing what you do. It is your gift to humanity.

  13. Jean - September 19, 2021 11:54 am

    At my house we made homemade ice cream regularly. My mother would make it…use real eggs….and sugar. My father’s job was to turn the stuff into ice cream. I can see him cranking that freezer now. None of us died from eating raw eggs. Now they warn about eating raw flour….cant remember eating that but I feel sure somewhere along the line I have and I am still here.

  14. Connoe Cagle - September 19, 2021 11:56 am

    Thank you Sean! I love your writings!! God speaks through you right to my heart!

  15. Artificially Sweet – Virginia Belle - September 19, 2021 12:03 pm

    […] Artificially Sweet […]

  16. Suellen - September 19, 2021 12:13 pm

    We just built a house across the street from our town’s ice cream shop. I could probably holler my order over to their drive thru from my front porch. You only live once.

  17. David Feder - September 19, 2021 12:19 pm

    Sean, whoever wrote you that nasty email is a real aspartame.

  18. jill - September 19, 2021 12:24 pm

    For our Memorial Day family reunion picnics each year I would make 4 quarts of homemade ice cream. Vanilla of course, and I have never tasted anything equal to that anywhere. Took two hours of cranking when I was a kid to make 2 quarts, fortunately when I took up the job of making it, I had a electric maker, sometimes I think I should have stuck with the hand cranked one, so each child would get a turn at cranking it. 🙂 Those were the days my friend, these reunion picnics, found us all outside if it was dry, enjoying talking to each other and the kids playing over hill and dale, no one worried about them being yanked out of thin air. The kids loved the freedom to run, jump, play ball, and eat ice cream when day was done. Home made ice cream needs to make a come back along with all the things the government (and I use that term loosely), tells us is bad for us.

  19. Nancy Crews - September 19, 2021 12:37 pm

    ❤your writing. Amen.

  20. Connie - September 19, 2021 12:38 pm

    Yes! Everything real-ice cream, sugar, people-we would all be better off with more emphasis on quality. Love and hugs to you and Jamie.

  21. elizabethroosje - September 19, 2021 12:40 pm

    I am so with you there. Also real French vanilla ice cream with eggs. Thank God Trader Joe’s still sells it!!!

  22. Karen - September 19, 2021 12:42 pm

    Amen to real ice cream. You make a nurse happily look forward to your writing each day. That made my day.

  23. Susan Kennedy - September 19, 2021 12:44 pm

    This is a favorite!! Ice Cream is a balm for a crappy day. Moose Tracks is a wonderful choice, but homemade is the best. With chocolate syrup!! Love to you and Jamie

  24. Karen Erwin-Brown - September 19, 2021 12:44 pm

    yes, I bought some Keto ice cream . It’s still in my freezer. with one spoonful missing…

  25. Janet - September 19, 2021 12:59 pm

    Some of my favorite memories was spending the night with my grandma and we’d have a bowl of chocolate ice cream before bedtime. Of course my mother would have had a cow if she’d found out. I loved that grandma and I had a special secret together.

  26. Marilyn - September 19, 2021 1:09 pm

    One of my favorite memories is of all the homemade ice cream we had when I was growing up. We all loved it, and even though there wasn’t much money in the pot, we had all the ingredients for the treat and enjoyed eating it on a warm summer day. Thanks for the memory…

  27. Glenda Williams - September 19, 2021 1:20 pm

    I think you are exactly right. We need more homemade ice cream. We need more homemade ice cream made in hand-turned freezers with a towel on top keeping the freezer cold. We need more anxious people around the freezer talking as they wait for that first spoonful! Yes, no aspartame.

  28. Sheri Smith - September 19, 2021 1:22 pm

    I am laughing so hard. This post was awesome. We eat ice cream at our house and I say that with no shame. I want to try to make homemade ice cream so I’ll ask for the machine for Christmas. I want the old fashioned one too.

  29. Paul McCutchen - September 19, 2021 1:33 pm

    My wife has tried to tell me what to pick up at the grocery store. I come back with whole milk, white bread and, if I can find it, vanilla ice cream made with sugar. She will give me a treat, on occasion, and that is biscuits made with lard. I have become accustomed to the use of the “Air Fryer” but there is no match for fried chicken that is fried in oil or even lard like my grandmother made.

  30. Cindy - September 19, 2021 1:34 pm

    Blue Mountain Creamery’s “Graham Central Station!” The best! We never miss when visiting 30A!

  31. Melanie - September 19, 2021 1:43 pm

    The image of you pedaling away and the doc laughing all the way to the operating room 🤣🤣🤣 I needed this today, Sean. Probably because of all the stevia and quinoa I eat (Jamie, it’s fine. He’ll thank you in 10 years). Thank you both for sharing your world. ❤️

  32. Martha Black - September 19, 2021 2:14 pm

    Amen! Sean Dietrich for PRESIDENT!

  33. Martha Black - September 19, 2021 2:17 pm

    Amen! Vote Sean Dietrich for President

  34. Linda - September 19, 2021 2:22 pm

    I’m with you, Sean. The world needs more real food. And kindness. Thanks for doing your part.

  35. Jodie Lugo - September 19, 2021 2:35 pm

    I agree with Karen! But where is she that it’s 11:16 am?? I’m on east coast and it’s only 10:34 here😍
    Truly enjoy your writing!

  36. Nancy - September 19, 2021 3:45 pm

    I don’t want to rain on your parade, but I’m sure if you reflect on it, you will remember that sugar cane is a plant.

  37. Christina - September 19, 2021 3:53 pm

    You continue to amaze me with your humor and kindness, the old fashion and always better way to the artificial and hateful stuff.

  38. Cheri Johnston - September 19, 2021 4:36 pm

    Haters gonna hate Sean!!! There’s more of us that love you (& ice cream!) Mocha Almond Fudge….

  39. dapeek43 - September 19, 2021 5:12 pm


  40. Linda Moon - September 19, 2021 5:28 pm

    Controversial?? Homemade ice cream?? Please tell me “No” in answer to my puzzlements before I continue to read further. And then I did and saw that once-too-familiar word “Aspartame”, and it helped me solve my conundrum of Homemade Ice Cream with real sugar that I’ve never turned down. Thank you, Sweetie Sean…you’re the real thing!

  41. Lulu - September 19, 2021 5:55 pm

    Super post, Sean. Everything you mentioned is so true! Homemade stuff is awesomely delish! I wish good music would come back and drown out what they call music today. Artificial everything is sure not good. I love your writing…every day you come up with a winner. So continue, no matter what the grinches throw at you…you’re one of the best. Hugs ‘n Love to you and Jamie and the dogs, wrapped in peace and joy!

  42. Jeanne - September 19, 2021 6:25 pm

    Amen Sean!!!!

  43. Steve Rafferty - September 19, 2021 6:31 pm

    I’m smiling ear to ear this morning thanks Sean we need these laughter stories in these very weird times!!

  44. Mart Lou - September 19, 2021 7:16 pm

    ME TOO!!!!!

  45. MAM - September 19, 2021 7:52 pm

    Actually never tried the fake stuff. My mother and my aunt DID concoct a lower fat ice cream that they cranked in the ice cream maker 60, 70 and more years ago. It used skim milk and dried milk. It was OK, because it was homemade, but I go for the highest fat vanilla bean ice cream I can find nowadays. Thanks, Sean, for the memories!

  46. Priscilla Maxwell - September 19, 2021 7:59 pm

    I make homemade ice cream, with real cream and real sugar, every 4th of July. You are welcome any time.

  47. Anita Smith - September 19, 2021 8:09 pm


  48. catladymac - September 19, 2021 8:32 pm

    I feel the same way about “caffeine free diet cola.” I can understand the diet part, and I know some people react badly to caffeine. But no sugar OR caffeine ? Just turn on the faucet. If you like the color, dip a brown crayon in it.

    To add to Nancy’s rain – pretty sure sugar beets are plants too.

  49. Bonnie David - September 19, 2021 9:01 pm

    Sean, I love that and heartily agree with every word. I always look forward to reading what’s on your mind each day!

  50. Liz Watkins - September 19, 2021 9:01 pm


  51. Holly Decherd - September 19, 2021 9:07 pm

    LOOOOOVe ice cream. Still a vanilla girl (Chik-fi-let wins the soft serve contest hands down tho QT comes in a close second). And, do I ever hope you can get Blue Bell ice cream that we have here in TX: Moolenium Crunch is pretty close to heaven (though pistachio almond runs a close second there for the gussied up flavors).

  52. Sue Adams - September 19, 2021 9:07 pm


  53. Bill - September 20, 2021 12:11 am

    Now I’m not a regular coffee drinker, but I do love coffee flavored ice cream. I grew up with chocolate being my favorite, but after my first taste of coffee ice cream, I was hooked. Not the run-of-the mill black coffee, but coffee with cream and sugar. Boy is that stuff good. The first time I tasted it was at a restaurant. I quickly asked the server where they got their ice cream and what was the brand. She didn’t know, but went to find out. It was a local company the service restaurants and the like. Since then, I’ve found coffee ice cream at the local grocery Frys stores. My wife is sure we always have some on hand. Ok, by the way, it’s not sugar free. Being a diabetic I need to watch how much or how often I have some. GOOD HUMOR man out..

  54. Jacqueline Arrington - September 20, 2021 12:12 am

    Love this story……I learned years ago from my wonderful mother in law in Te as how to make homemade ice cream. Nothing like it…… fake stuff for our famiky!!
    Thanks Sean your story’s make my day, every single day!!!

  55. Carol Rahn - September 20, 2021 1:08 am

    Thank you so much.

  56. Stacey Patton Wallace - September 20, 2021 1:19 am

    You said it, Sean! I remember Mama and Daddy’s homemade ice cream freezer, rock salt, etc. Boy, that was the best ice cream on the planet; I miss homemade ice cream and those simpler times. Also, we didn’t have to wear masks, and people hadn’t lost their minds. Sean, please keep writing; we need something happy to read.

  57. Stacey Patton Wallace - September 20, 2021 1:23 am

    Sean, you are right! Homemade ice cream is the best. I remember Mama and Daddy’s homemade ice cream freezer, the rock salt, the whirring sound, etc. Also, we didn’t have to wear masks, and half the world hadn’t gone crazy. I miss those simpler times. Sean, please keep writing. We need something happy to read.

  58. Tawanah Fagan Bagwell - September 20, 2021 2:33 am

    I am older than you and I had my tonsils out around 1960. They put a mask over my face and it was filled with either! It smelled like gasoline or oiled based paint. It was scary. We do need to eat real ice cream and to be real people! You are right!

  59. Arelene Mack - September 20, 2021 3:47 pm

    Love your stories. Love homemade ice cream with all the fat and twice the sugar. Real sugar. My husband likes plain old vanilla but chocolate is my ice cream of choice. On lazy Sunday afternoons after church and a big lunch, my Daddy used to get a 6-pack of orange Crush or orange Nehi soda in the glass bottles, pour them into the ice cream churn, add thick fresh milk and sweet crushed pineapple, then have us take turns sitting on top of the hand-cranked freezer. That was Daddy’s Orange Sherbert Ice Cream and we loved it.

  60. Chris Morrison - September 20, 2021 5:54 pm

    I froze my hind end sitting on top of a burlap sack that covered the ice cream churn so it would stay still for Granddad or Daddy to turn the handle more times than I can count. That was back in the day when girls always wore dresses, too. Maybe that’s why I didn’t care for the stuff that came out once it was frozen! I was big into chocolate, and all they ever made was vanilla!

  61. Larry J Wall - September 21, 2021 7:45 pm

    Sean, I enjoy your arty renderings that you add to your subject of the day. But I need help with this one on home-made ice cream. I have turned hundreds of freezers of ice cream on Sunday afternoons while growing up and as a young adult with small people all around, but I have never seen anyone place flour or butter in the mix. Am I taking your drawing too literal? I am never too old to learn something new.

    And I am going to have to try the Orange Crush pineapple ice cream even though I am a vanilla kind of person.

  62. Helen - September 23, 2021 9:16 pm

    Long live real ice cream! I had to stop reading this story and figure out what the nineteenth letter of the alphabet was. 🤣🤣🤣

  63. Kathleen Jun Magyar - September 24, 2021 5:14 am

    Hey, I had a really bad day too, following a night full of dreams so stressful that my blanket ended up looking like a tornado. But–no hate-filled note here; just a loving, complimenting one. Thought you should have something to balance it all out.

  64. Melissa - November 5, 2021 11:52 am

    I bought a whole box of little fruit cups. But I guess I should have worn my glasses because as soon as I took the first bite, co.plete with a little cherry, I thought the fruit cup had spoiled. No. It was made with stevia instead of sugar and left a taste in your mouth like you had licked the floor at the doctors office. I don’t care if I am 500lbs and die next week I want sugar in my everything. Coffee. Cake. Ice cream. Fruit cups. Some things you don’t skimp on. The right kind of mayonnaise, the good toilet paper, and the five pound bag of Dixie Crystals. This is the South, if it was going to kill us none of us would have lived past our first birhday party.

  65. CHARALEEN WRIGHT - April 27, 2022 3:18 pm


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