Friday, August 15, 2014

Hold the ice

Food vendors in the US seem to put ice into every drink, whether you want it or not — a habit that has long annoyed me. Don’t people realize that melted ice = water? We say “watered down” to describe something that is less than pure, and that’s exactly what you do when you dump ice into something. So why do food vendors routinely stuff extra ice (water) into our drinks?

Note that this is a uniquely American ritual. In other countries, you have to ask for ice — and in many cases they’ll look at you strangely when you do. When a US flight attendant asks me what I’d like to drink, I always say “X with no ice”. On non-US airlines, it’s the opposite: if you want your drink extra-chilled, you’ll need to request it.

I think this habit of dumping ice into everything started with the invention of low-cost artificial refrigeration in the early 1900s. Before that, ice in the summer was a big deal: somebody needed to carefully preserve ice, usually underground, from the winter, an expensive luxury item that literally melted away over time. Ice was a status symbol, and somehow it remains that way.

So, thanks for offering, but no thanks.

Ice cube

(Photo: Pierre Rennes)