Two scoops of chocolate ice cream


Or vanilla?

Chocolate, right?  Yeah, me too.

When it comes to ice cream, there’s a good chance you’re choosing chocolate over vanilla. Okay, maybe not with a slice of apple pie, but when it comes to a cone, two scoops of chocolate rules.

Turns out, statistically speaking, more people prefer chocolate ice cream over vanilla.  What’s more? This flavour preference may be entirely beyond our control. That’s right: chocolate lovers, you were born this way.

Two scoops of ice cream, vanilla and chocolate.
Photo from unsplash.

The DNA testing company, 23andMe, did some field work on the crucially important subject of which flavour dominates in the ice cream cone line-up. They analyzed the responses of almost a million people – really! – on the question of which flavour they preferred, chocolate or vanilla. Turns out, there are 739 genetic markers that are associated with your flavour preference. Age, sex and ancestry also play a role, but it’s your nose that will cast the deciding vote. A batch of the genetic markers that dictate ice cream flavour preference are located close to the olfactory receptor genes which contain instruction for proteins that help detect odours. The appreciation of flavours is a combination of what your nose smells and what your taste buds taste. The findings suggest that genetic variations in olfactory receptor genes may affect the perception of these flavours.

The research participants in a 980,000 person study contributed their genetic data and survey responses on the subject of ice cream flavours. The study yadders on about statistical models, neural mechanisms of gustation, and factoring in and out various data, but the findings indicate that 47 percent of 23andMe research participants have an innate preference for chocolate over vanilla.

Be that as it may.

According to Baskin-Robbins, the world’s biggest – and oldest – ice cream chain, we Canadians are just as likely to choose mint chocolate chip as our cone of choice; it’s Baskin-Robbins’ biggest seller in Canada. I’d have thought something maple would have shown its sticky face, but second and third place go to vanilla then pralines and cream.

And pity the poor ice cream scooper. Ice cream season lays bare personality types: those who know, unwaveringly, what flavour they’re going to order when they go out for a cone, and those who are thrown into wrenching self-examination by the many options available. Growing up, we had a family ritual of going for ice cream on the last day of school.  My dad, an accountant, would select vanilla from the flavour ledger. My mom, a woman who at any moment might run away with the circus, could be counted on to order rum raisin. My older brother chose strawberry, a choice that confounded me. My younger brother would go for something different each time. My little sister would wait to see what I was ordering. And I was ordering chocolate – no two ways about it. Life may be uncertain but chocolate ice cream has never failed me.

Given that many of us console ourselves with a pint of ice cream, it’s surprising you don’t see vague flavours like, You Deserve Better, or Brighter Days Ahead.  It’s chocolate or a chocolate variation, however, that takes first place in the ice cream sweepstakes. Vanilla, however, is never the bride and always the bridesmaid. Third place? Third place is a toss up. The science on all this is about as perishable as an ice cream cone on a July day. Some stats declare that strawberry ice cream takes third place. Nevertheless, the top five always seem to include chocolate mint, butter pecan, and strawberry. Who really cares? It’s ice cream!! Any summer day is immeasurably improved by an ice cream cone. In a pinch, I’ll take whatever is in fifth place.  And make it three scoops, will ya?

Would you like to take the family out for ice cream cones courtesy of The Bookless Club?  I’ll send a $20 Baskin-Robbins gift certificate to the first 15 people to sign up at 



  1. Hi Jane, Enjoyed your article about ice cream. I’m actually a vanilla person in spite of my love of chocolate in other ways. I wanted to sign up for the free ice cream offer if I’m early enough. Anyway, I enjoy your articles and read them every week. Thanks, Larry

  2. Please enter me to win a Baskin Robbins gift card. I tried sending an email but did not work, had to go to your website!

  3. Gee, if I’ll known you had a website, I could have saved some anxiety and annoyance when The Sun occasionally doesn’t have TBC where I expect to find it!

    The ice cream I still dream of is from Baskin Robbins – a limited edition I believe – called ‘Here Comes the Fudge’ illustrated with a cartoon judge character. It was chocolate ice cream with chunks of, of course,, fudge – no silly nuts or anything extraneous. I remember it from a childhood summer in Atlanta, Georgia (a good place to savour ice cream) – I think it was the year the movie Jaws came out and my Grandfather took me to see it and for ice cream after. It was a summer of shark nightmares and ice cream dreams.

    I hope this note can be construed as my application for the Baskin Robbins gift card. I’ll share credit with you when we take the multiple nieces and nephews for ice cream.


  4. Hello Jane,
    I applied/shared my ice cream story on the bookless club earlier this morning.
    However , in the rush to reply I forgot sugar in the recipe.
    The young girl in the photo appears to be enjoying vanilla ice cream with strawberry topping…not chocolate?
    Vivian Jervis

  5. Love your column look forward to it every sat
    Loved your comments about Shelly Fralich
    I like all her fans miss her columns

  6. I signed up for a chance to win a $20 gift certificate for ice cream. I love ice cream. I like trying different flavours. I’d agree with you, chocolate over vanilla for a cone. Vanilla to go with pie. Thanks for this fun topic.

  7. Dear Jane:

    Many years ago I was at Horseshoe Bay with family. My father-in-law purchased ice cream for everyone at a Baskin Robbins. I am a lemon lover and chose “Lemon Mousse Royale”. Since that time I have looked everywhere for it but to no avail.

    A second choice – but not by much – is Chapman’s Black Cherry ice cream. On solo visits to my folks in Ontario, mum and I would sit on the chesterfield, the ice cream tub between us, and watch old black and white movies. Mum is gone now, but the ice cream ritual is one I share with my daughter. Good times.

  8. I have a split personality when it comes to ice cream. My favourite, at home, ice cream is PC vanilla. When I am lucky enough to get to an ice cream scoopery I ask for two scoops of bubble gum or if they don’t have the good stuff I get one scoop of licorice and one scoop of banana. I’ve been told, at some locations, that I’m the oldest customer they’ve ever had to order bubble gum ice cream. As you know I’m a couple of years older than you, Jane!

  9. Dear Jane,
    I am late to the party, as I just read your Saturday column now, but I had to say this:
    I grew up in Halifax, and my absolute favourite ice cream flavour was (and is) grapenut. Grapenut ice cream is unheard of outside the Maritimes, for some strange reason. There must be a story there: who came up with the idea and why didn’t it spread?

  10. Hi Jane,
    I realize that it’s now too late, but here’s the no-churn rhubarb ginger ice cream recipe that I had meant to send you. I was having email issues so I tried to send this on my husband’s phone but we somehow got your email address wrong. I just became aware of this. Anyway, still wanted to share the recipe with you.

  11. Ah yes, the joys of ice cream. It seems to have become a guilty pleasure as we age and try to stave off our “spare tire“ midriff.
    I fondly remember going for a drive after dinner on weekend summer evenings as a young child with the whole family to Peters ice cream on Cambie street in Vancouver.
    My three brothers and myself would peruse the many flavours for what seemed a lifetime to make a choice. I was usually the last one to order because I always knew what I wanted, vanilla. My brothers hounded me relentlessly for not experimenting with a new flavour. Well to appease them next trip I ordered Maple Walnut and that became my go to two scoops, Vanilla and Maple Walnut. Until I discovered Gelato, now all bets are off!

  12. Hi Jane,

    Here’s another ice-cream story for you. It’s nearly 50 years old now, but I and my stomach remember it clear as day. And I haven’t been back to that DQ since!

    Travelling along East Hastings to SFU took my car-pool past a Dairy Queen. All four of us loved ice-cream, but being poor students rarely stopped, except for one Friday afternoon.

    It was the end of a hot, stressful week, and the sight of DQ advertising a rare 2-for-1 sundae special triggered cries of “We must stop at DQ!”. We pulled in and ordered four extra-large sundaes, all with gooey toppings. Thankfully nobody noticed that I threw away most of mine on the way back to the car.

    I had been too embarrassed to confess to my car-pool that as driver that day with free time that afternoon, I had already visited the DQ and bought my own 2-for-1 sundae special. With gooey toppings. I didn’t talk much the rest of the way home, afraid I’d lose my lunch if I opened my mouth. There is indeed too much of a good thing.

  13. great article

    As a 13 yr old boy, my grandfather, Irving aquired the rights to Swensen’s
    Ice Cream of San Francisco. It was a headache for him from the get go but for me it was a dream come true. Novelties to munch on while our milkshakes were churning was a daily occurance. The flavours were limitless and by the end of the summer I had easily moved out of the husky jeans, bought at Woodwards Oakridge , into a new size 32’s.
    I love ice cream, all flavors. A master ice cream maker should be judged on two flavours. Toasted Almond and Chocolate.

    p.s. it was odd for a 13 yr old to like rum raison, but I loved its unique flavour as you mentioned your mother did,as well.

    I hope they are sitting at Peter’s ice cream, heaven franchise, enjoying a nice cone.

    I enjoy your column

  14. Hi Jane,
    When I was a kid, on a prairie ‘mixed farm’, we had an old fashioned ice cream maker- a wooden bucket with a metal container inside for cream, and a handle you turned. The outer part was filled with ice and rock salt to bring the temperature below freezing. For some reason my brother stuck his finger in a drainage hole in the side and couldn’t get it out. The finger was freezing. So my Dad took a hatchet and broke the bucket apart to free his finger. Before that we had delicious handmade ice cream from our own cows.😩
    Patricia Rust

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