The Properties of Sugar

BIRMINGHAM—It’s late. And 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. 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 seems like a dirty word, but 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. Life was all right again.

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 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 we were eating what looked like chicken feed for every meal until sometimes—especially if we sat in one place for too long—grade-A eggs would start appearing beneath our 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 desert. But it wasn’t the real thing.

“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 called stevia. It’s a plant-based sweetener.”


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.

It was all 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, something was wrong. I saw four men dressed like 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 stevia tastes like.

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

I would also like for people to get along. And for dogs to get adopted. And for good music to makes its way into the ears of children. For this virus to hurry up and disappear.

And for lonely people to find love. 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. Especially during times like these. 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. Toni - July 22, 2020 9:18 am

    I made a batch of homemade ice cream the week of the Fourth. Daddy lived to be 99 and he never had anything less than real sugar so that will be my choice as I age out.

  2. Mary Drouillard - July 22, 2020 9:36 am

    Ice cream makes everything better. I’m new to your columns, my mom turned me on to you. You start my day off in the sunshine. Thank you.

  3. Charles Mathers - July 22, 2020 10:38 am

    Amen brother! Honest to God ice cream! Home made ice cream.

  4. Amanda Gibbs - July 22, 2020 10:47 am

    Mr Sean.
    Thanks so much for this article. I needed to read it this morning. Wow. Your right with all the social media garbage and when our children are going back to school none sense, and covid-19 crap, and politics. We all just need some good old homemade ice cream. Keep on writing. And spreading the good word. I love all the stuff you write. And when you write about Brewton, Alabama. Or Ft Walton or Destin, Florida. It hits close to home. See we live near Atmore, Alabama. And my husband is from Ft Walton. So I love hearing your stores of these places. Thanks again.

  5. Susan Kennedy - July 22, 2020 10:51 am

    Ice cream is good for the soul, as are you Sean! 😉

  6. Maggie Kruger - July 22, 2020 11:23 am

    Absolutely lovely

  7. Tim and Mary Smith - July 22, 2020 12:07 pm

    Made some Sunday night. Whole milk, eggs, canned milk, sugar and vanilla. Added homemade peanut butter topping. No stevia plants were harmed in the making of that ice cream.

  8. Jo Ann - July 22, 2020 12:23 pm

    We use real butter & real sugar, no artificial stuff anymore. Ice cream, my biggest weakness! I love ice cream! So now, thanks to you, Sean, I’m hungry for ice cream way early in the morning. ( we don’t keep it in the house-we have to go out for it. I don’t want that tempting stuff close by!!) Have a great day!

  9. William Strawn - July 22, 2020 12:27 pm

    Good on you. Ice cream needs to be a part of every day. My first paying job 57 years ago was at a ice cream store for 75 cents an hour and all the ice cream I could eat. With 30+ flavors I tried each every day. I am sure they lost money on me. Thank you for another wonderful story.

  10. Christine G - July 22, 2020 12:28 pm

    You don’t deserve hateful emails! Delete that nonsense from your email app, and focus on the thousands (millions!) of readers who open their inboxes each morning with the happy anticipation of your daily missal. You spread light and love in the world even when the subject matter of your work is serious or even sad.
    P.S. I’m still anxious after reading about the texter who almost hit you and your wife. Thank God you’re both alive. That column should be required reading for everyone with a driver’s license.

  11. vicki younger - July 22, 2020 12:29 pm

    Great read this morning! Blue Bell is my kind of dessert! Keep ‘em coming!

  12. Nan Williams - July 22, 2020 12:30 pm

    Amen, Brother Sean. We need more homemade … everything! and we need to use more natural ingredients – not things made in a chemistry lab.

  13. Ginger - July 22, 2020 12:36 pm

    I’m wondering what hateful thing someone would say to you. Perhaps, knowing that you will not respond in kind emboldens folks. If an unpleasant person kicks their innocent dog, it says everything about the person and nothing about the poor pooch. So I hope you can keep the harsh words from sinking into your spirit.

    That said, I love stevia BUT husband agrees with you. 😋
    Hello to Jaime and your innocent pup pals.

  14. MR Russell - July 22, 2020 12:46 pm

    Laughed out loud at this one! Loved your description of your tonsillectomy! Nothing eater than homemade ice cream- full of milk, cream and real sugar! Which is exactly what the person needs who wrote you the nasty mean email.

  15. Jan - July 22, 2020 12:51 pm


  16. cronkitesue - July 22, 2020 12:58 pm

    Maybe we should go back to making our own homemade ice cream.

  17. Melanie - July 22, 2020 12:58 pm

    I’m on Jamie’s side on this one, Sean. She’s doing it because she loves you. You’ll thank her when you’re my age. I actually got my husband to eat quinoa once and he liked it😄

  18. GaryD - July 22, 2020 1:08 pm

    More ice cream and vanilla wafers! That’s what’s good!

  19. Jodi S - July 22, 2020 1:11 pm

    I am making a pound cake today with real butter, cream and sugar. Now all I need is ice cream…love your posts every morning. Don’t let the nasty email bother you. Some people are just that, nasty.

  20. Curtis Lee Zeitelhack - July 22, 2020 1:15 pm

    You had me at “ice cream”.

  21. Shannon Windham - July 22, 2020 1:15 pm

    We grew up with homemade ice cream that included sweetened condensed milk, real cream, a little more sugar and —- wait for it —— raw eggs! I sat on top of the churn on a towel that held in the ice and rock sat while family members took turns with the handle. Thank you so much for helping to start my day off with a smile!!!

  22. Betty B Hawley - July 22, 2020 1:21 pm

    quinoa shouldn’t be in the same category. I’m using it is soup and casseroles for added nutrition and loving it.

  23. earlywirght - July 22, 2020 1:28 pm

    I like your stories, but please don’t mention frozen yogurt flavors like “Toenail” while I have a mouthful of liquid!

  24. Lisa Martin from Oxford - July 22, 2020 1:28 pm

    Did you know you were a social media influencer? I don’t eat milk, eggs or sugar as a rule but I have a weakness for ice cream and now I want to make some. And did anyone else count on their fingers to find the 19th letter of the alphabet? Another good one Sean!

  25. Cheryl - July 22, 2020 1:33 pm

    Thank you, Sean, for making this crazy frightening world a better place. God bless you and Jamie.

  26. Glenda Hinkle - July 22, 2020 1:35 pm

    You have inspired me, Sean……I must go into downtown Sylacauga to the Save A Lot grocery store today and buy more bacon (for our BLT’s we live on daily)….I will take my husband with me and we will go to the Ice Cream Parlor at the Blue Bell Creamery plant and we will enjoy a cup of ice cream while overlooking the workers packaging up the ice cream. You need to bring Jamie up here and experience it!! The “cup” of ice cream they dispense, by hand, of course, is more like a pint of ice cream for the low low price of One Dollar!! There are, at least, 30 different flavors……It is well worth a 5 hour drive!!

  27. earlywirgit - July 22, 2020 1:35 pm

    Specifically, we used Eagle Brand Milk. At my grandmother’s house the grandchild that cranked the most would get the dasher when it was pulled out. You stood it on a plate scooping what ice cream you could from the parts of it. A lot melted into the plate which was then turned up so that you could drink what had melted. I cranked until my arm ached, but I won the dasher many times.

  28. Sharon Brock - July 22, 2020 1:37 pm

    Hear, hear, Sean.

  29. Lauren D Ulrich - July 22, 2020 1:43 pm

    Why in the world would anyone write you a hateful email?????

  30. Kathy - July 22, 2020 1:45 pm

    Peach! Or strawberry!

  31. ginger - July 22, 2020 1:50 pm

    We had these cows wander in from Texas to Sylacauga, and Blue Bell ice cream started to happen then, right here!!! Since then all church ice cream socials went from home made to Blue Bell. They have every flavor, and it is delicious!! Less work! My favorite flavor is lemon. The last church ice cream social I took a half gallon of lemon. A lady eased up to me and shared that she loved all of it except that awful lemon. Wonder who brought that? I gave her a knowing smile. Just proves that she had lost her pucker.

  32. Mary Lee - July 22, 2020 1:56 pm

    I’ve been reading your columns for quite awhile and am surprised anyone would write you a nasty email. Every subject is written in a lighthearted manner peppered with an appropriate amount of self deprecation so as to not offend anyone. You are expressing your opinion usually about the mundane issues of life and with everything going on we are all having to find comfort and enjoyment in these basic life elements. Homemade ice cream is one of them! Although, at 64, I would rather consume those unnecessary calories via a fine bottle of vino!

  33. Lloyd - July 22, 2020 2:03 pm

    Sean, there are 10 of our family sitting in a rental house not far from your house. GiGi made homemade banana ice cream Sunday night and all is well with the world….

  34. Deborah Blount - July 22, 2020 2:12 pm

    I agree totally! More icecream. No ass…

  35. Joann Thompson - July 22, 2020 2:12 pm

    Homemade peach ice cream is what we will eat in Heaven, and I am unanimous in that.

  36. Margaret Chipman - July 22, 2020 2:16 pm

    You must try monkfruit, Sean!! It’s the best sweetener!!

  37. Phil S. - July 22, 2020 2:25 pm

    Oh, boy! Nostalgia just saddles up and rides again. You reminded me of the “good ol’ days” of hand-cranked homemade ice cream. starring real sugar. My cousin and I were the designated crankers because every time we would let ourselves be convinced by the devious family elders that it would be fun. We took turns at the job, one of us sitting on the top of the ice cream tub to hold it in place while the other cranked his life away. When one cranker’s arm fell off we would swap places. Once the handle got too hard for our young arms to turn any more, a supervisor, aka older family member, would step in and say encouraging things like “What took y’all so long?” and “Next time we’ll let the girls do the cranking so it’ll be finished faster.” The tub would then be covered with 450 towels to insulate it until everyone was ready to eat. Cuz and I were tired but still had the energy to lick our chops and hold out our bowls for seconds. All that cranking was always well worth the effort!

  38. Connie - July 22, 2020 2:29 pm

    I will start by saying that anyone who sends you hateful emails should be banned. I look forward to your column every day. I’m an older lady, and I cook like my grandma. I use real sugar and real butter and taught my children and my granddaughter to do the same. We make everything from scratch at our house. I’m sure there are downsides to all that but we are happy, mostly healthy, and know how to feed a crowd with very little. Love and hugs to you and Jamie.

  39. Cheryl - July 22, 2020 3:10 pm

    Homemade Peach Ice Cream

    1 12 oz can Carnation Evaporated Milk
    1 14 oz can Magnolia Borden Sweetened Condensed Milk
    6 large whole eggs
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    4 tablespoons Pure Vanilla Extract
    1/2 Gallon Whole Milk
    8-10 Chilton County Ripe/Soft Peaches


    Skin, remove seed, and chop peaches into finely cut pieces. Set to the side, retaining juices w/cut peaches.
    Combine first five ingredients in ice cream freezer’s container and blend well.
    Add peaches and juice and mix well.
    Top off the container to fill line with whole milk. Mix well.

    One bowl is guaranteed to make you feel like a kid again on a hot summer day and forget about ill-natured folks. Life is short and fresh Chilton County peaches are here just a few weeks each year. Enjoy!!

  40. Holly mcintyre - July 22, 2020 3:14 pm

    Love, love, love you. Although you make me weepy most times!

  41. Jonathan Machen - July 22, 2020 3:24 pm

    You have such a great way of weaving in the humorous with the profound. Your response to the hateful email writer exemplifies the philosophy of non-violence that was espoused by Senator John Lewis, who recently passed; and of course the teachings of Jesus, who both probably would have preferred real ice cream, but not, of course, impossible burgers, which hopefully will be the subject of a future post.

  42. Worth Johnson - July 22, 2020 4:43 pm

    I remember eating homemade ice cream as a kid at my Mawmaw and Pawpaw’s house with Dad and Mom and Aunts and Uncles. I have past that tradition on to my two daughters, and now my six grandchildren. They love My (Pawpaw’s), (I stole my grandfather’s name.) homemade ice cream. I only have one rule about eating homemade icecream and all my grandchildren know it. YOU CAN EAT AS MUCH AS YOU WANT

  43. allisvant - July 22, 2020 4:47 pm

    Amen & amen, sister!!

  44. Barbara Ames - July 22, 2020 4:47 pm

    I could not agree with you more, Sean! Ice cream is one of my favorite Foods. Nowadays, I must read the label in full before purchasing. Anytime I see sugar-free, I drop what I am reading back into the freezer. If I cannot pronounce it, it cannot taste good!

  45. Anne Arthur - July 22, 2020 4:48 pm

    YESSSS, I join your home-made ice cream league.

  46. allisvant - July 22, 2020 4:50 pm

    Sorry, the Amen & amen was meant Miss Joann on the exclusive ice cream in Heaven.

  47. Linda Moon - July 22, 2020 4:50 pm

    Homemade Ice Cream. Hand-Cranked Homemade Ice Cream. Those are sacred words. Thank you, Jesus! If I’d known you were close-by in my neck of the woods I would’ve invited you and Jamie to sit on my front porch and share some watermelon that my neighbor dropped off at said porch yesterday. The weather was steamy, but no steamy people of hate are allowed on my porch—-and no aspartame, either!

  48. Beverley Phillips - July 22, 2020 5:02 pm

    I can relate to the tonsillectomy and the offers of ice cream. I fell for it, too, but I was in the old St. Vincent’s, and the nurses wore the full habit, black flowing robe and the wide head gear that looked like wings (to a six year old). Afterwards I was so sick that ice cream was impossible for a day or two. But, I’m still making up for that deceitful ploy!

  49. glbarlow - July 22, 2020 5:40 pm

    The need for hateful, sad people to share their hate and sadness by writing hateful sad things to others never ceases to astound me. I wish they’d all just stay in their barren little world and keep their hateful, sad comments to themselves. Anthropologists 1000 years from now will point to the advent of Facebook posts as the prelude to the downfall of civilization.

    The best and only thing to do is not give these hateful, sad people air – ignoring them is the one thing that shuts them down. Then they go somewhere else to do their hateful, sad work.

  50. Gigi - July 22, 2020 5:42 pm

    Every summer the ice cream maker comes out at our house- and drs everywhere would cringe to know that not only do I use real sugar, I make every flavor with heavy cream 😉 and I mean every flavor! From rocky road with chocolate covered almonds, to peach, strawberry, vanilla, to the current favorite- dewberry cream cheese! My four boys and my grandsons LOVE homemade ice cream- especially with some homemade salted bourbon caramel sauce💜
    So preach on Sean!!🙌

  51. Ala Red Clay Girl - July 22, 2020 5:49 pm

    Hateful people just need a bowl of homemade ice cream!

  52. MAM - July 22, 2020 7:03 pm

    I so agree! Quinoa is simply evil and so is kale. I’ll take chard and cabbage, but you can keep the kale, especially if it’s served with quinoa, which our daughter pushed on us one time. YUCK! Now that we’re old, we eat REAL butter, REAL ice cream and REAL food, not any artificial sweeteners or artificial anything. Fresh produce and meat, please, with ice cream as dessert.

  53. Mary bowen - July 22, 2020 7:44 pm

    My cousin had his tonsils out in the summer of 1946 and I went to visit him. He had on a dog collar filled with crushed ice and a pretty nurse was feeding him ice cream. That winter I had to have mine out but it was the day the Winecoff Hotel burned in Atlanta and they yanked out my tonsils and left me on a stretcher in the hall. No nurse. No dog collar. No ice cream. There were patients with bad burns and they needed the attention. But I have felt cheated ever since. I am 84 and I eat ice cream every chance I get.

  54. catladymac - July 22, 2020 8:36 pm

    Despite my doctor’s suggestion that I eat Popsicles (I’m in my 70’s with high cholesterol ) I eat real ice cream. But a half gallon carton now only contains 1.5 quarts. Except one certain brand which has 1.75 qts, which is one of their selling points – though it is good ice cream, Maybe they’ll eventually make it 2.0 quarts again.

  55. Martha - July 22, 2020 9:33 pm

    Absolutely !

  56. Christina - July 22, 2020 9:53 pm

    Sean, thanks for staying up to shower us with humor and love for all things real. You deserve a bowl of ice cream!

  57. Maxine - July 22, 2020 11:13 pm

    uh oh you started an itch I will have to scratch….will be finding homemade ice cream in someones kitchen or back porch before long.

  58. Patricia Gibson - July 22, 2020 11:15 pm

    I agree Sean❤️

  59. Kathie kerr - July 23, 2020 1:20 am

    Have you tried the vanilla ice cream from Chic Fe Le? It tastes just like homemade

  60. Mr Bill - July 23, 2020 6:03 pm

    Family get togethers always brought out a churn or two.. In those days the churns were mostly cedar as plastic had not been invented (pre- WWII). About four of us boys had the cranking job and rotated cranking and sitting on it to hold it down. Block ice from the ice plant, in a #10 washtub, covered with a croker sack and chipped up and added to the freezer with rock salt. The invention of electric powered churns was good but somehow it just didn’t taste the same as hand cranked.
    Mom used Nehi drinks for flavor and strawberry was my favorite. Peach was good when Georgia peaches were available.

  61. Mary - July 24, 2020 4:07 pm

    We made homemade ice cream for the 4th of July. Ben & Jerry’s recipe for Heath Bar Crunch. It’s one of the best things I have ever eaten. REAL sugar, REAL cream, WHOLE milk, REAL Heath Bars. We have a hand crank and an electric-gotta admit that the electric sure does make it easy. Such a special treat and a tradition in our family! Love your writing, Sean!

  62. T Snipes - July 24, 2020 6:07 pm

    My father-in-law used to eat so much homemade ice cream that his tummy felt cold! My husband’s family made it every weekend, which was magical.

    My husband and I were just saying the other day that it’s been too long since we made ice cream. Our daughter is getting ready to have her college graduation in August since they couldn’t do it in May. Making ice cream is a great idea as part of the celebration! It will be just like when all our children were home and we made it. Thanks for the great idea!

  63. Michele - July 24, 2020 7:33 pm

    Two words: Thank YOU!!!!!

  64. Anne Riemer - July 25, 2020 10:33 am

    Sean, you’re my humanity lifeline right now. Even my own sister is grouchy with me. You tell stories about people who are trying their best, and keep me believing that we are, most of us, good at heart.
    I’m sorry you got a hateful email, you don’t deserve that, and I pray it doesn’t make you feel discouraged. I’m a physician assistant working in the clinic and we’re all plugging along doing our jobs, and I agree with you that people are basically good and have love in their hearts.
    Just wanted to really thank you for providing me daily with evidence of that!
    Your friend,

  65. Claudia - July 28, 2020 4:35 pm

    I don’t k ow who could ever write a hateful email to you. You are one of my favorite writers. It’s not only good, funny writing but it’s full of soul and compassion and goodness. Keep doing you Sean and ignore the haters. I look forward to your posts every day as an antidote to the hate all around us right now.

  66. Claudia - July 28, 2020 4:37 pm

    *know* (typo above)

  67. CM in Auburn - August 26, 2020 9:12 pm

    I just made some ice cream a few weeks ago. Fresh peaches from Clanton, AL. Raw cream from Hurtsboro AL. As many AL ingredients as I could use! Man, was it good!! I need to make some more…

  68. Joe Patterson - August 27, 2020 12:13 am

    I have tried all the sweeteners since I wore husky jeans when I was young that you had to roll up 5 times because husky jeans were for husky guys not little chubby guys Finally lost the weight by growing up playing football and working in the mail room while going to high school Great shape then law school fat again more dieting .I have been fighting weight all my life ,but finally decided I was going to cut out a lot of things but still have a small cup of ice cream every night..Still have to watch my weight and use stevia in my coffee,but no more skipping ice cream.Some things you cannot do without.

  69. Becky - August 28, 2020 1:50 am

    I always buy ice cream with my Hurricane supplies. When the power goes out you have to eat it all up

  70. Bonita Arnold - August 29, 2020 9:23 pm

    We have an old original white mountain hand cranked ice cream machine. It makes the best ice cream. Fourth of July our granddaughter got her first taste of ice cream and it was papa’s homemade. I told my daughter she’ll be totally ruined by eating that.


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