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When I think of ice, my mental process goes something like this: you pour the water. You freeze water. You get ice cream.

Turns out it’s a bit more complicated than that. According to Easy Ice, one of the companies that provides “good ice machines” to restaurants and bars, it all starts with an auger – yes, like the one you’ll poke a hole in something with. This auger rotates to scrape thin sheets of ice as they form on the freezing temperature walls of a cylinder onto which water is poured. These sheets are then extruded from this contraption to make the nuggets of ice we know and love.

(Anyone else considering Play-Doh right now?)

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It is through the scraping and extrusion process that an “airy” pellet is obtained, which is easy to chew and, to the delight of dentists around the world, softer for the teeth. This “aeration” is what some say is so appealing to ice-cream eaters.

One of the best things about eating at Sonic is enjoying “good ice cream.”(Haley Laurence)

So appealing, in fact, that people have even described themselves as addicted to pellet ice cream, which brings us to psychology and a bit more science.

Most people chew ice because they really, really like it. As simple as that. And when asked why they love it, I heard time and time again that there was “something about it” or “I can’t explain it”.

But a few people said they had a crush on calming down when they felt anxious and overwhelmed. And according to Dr. Uma Naidoo, a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, professional chef, and nutritionist, it actually works by having a “calming or distracting effect.” Dare I say, it helps them relax.

And then there is the “pagophagy”. This is what you call an overwhelming and intense urge to chew ice. These cravings can actually mean things like anemia and other deficiencies. So if you find yourself wanting more than the occasional bite, you might want to consider getting a checkup.

This psychology leads us to raw emotion.

“I think the first time I really got it was my first job at a bar. And I remember being like, What is @{replace13}amp; % this ice cream?That’s Laura Newman, owner and beverage manager of Queen’s Park and Neon Moon in Birmingham, Alabama. And if there was ever a person who loved pelleted ice cream, it’s Newman. “I think it’s superior. My dentist will kill me if I say that, but nothing beats that crunchy crunch.

But pellet ice is not for everyone.

“My allegiance is crushed [ice]says nutrition writer and editor Rachel Quinlivan West. Not surprisingly, her great-grandfather James R. Quinlivan founded Mobile’s Crystal Ice Company in 1900. This company, specializing in shaved ice, was operated by four generations of his family until 2017.

Granulated ice cream in a portable green machine

Let’s go back to science for a moment. According to Rachel’s brother, Stephen Quinlivan, who was one of the last generations of Quinlivans to lead Crystal Ice, shaved ice requires an entirely different manufacturing process than granulated ice. It starts with vertical refrigerated plates over which water flows in a continuous loop. Somehow in this process the impurities disappear and this is how you get crystal clear ice.

The ice slowly builds up on the plates and when it reaches about 3/4 inch thick, the plates are heated with a hot coolant until the leaves fall off. The leaves are then ground with a large grinding bar into small pieces which are then bagged for distribution.

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Quinlivan said that under ideal conditions, Crystal Ice could produce 60 tons of ice every day. TONS ! That’s a lot of ice packs for fishing, going to the beach, and yes, making drinks. “It’s a good frozen cocktail,” says Quinlivan.

But for Newman, cocktails are more fun with nuggets. “Pellet ice is more consistent both in size and because of how it dilutes and melts,” she says. “When you’re making cocktails, you can dial it up a bit more and standardize how you’re going to use it.”

But Newman, who has a self-proclaimed “lifelong obsession with ice cream,” says that while she doesn’t care about shaved ice, she does respect people’s opinions on ice cream in general. “It’s something that takes a lot of effort to create but goes away, kind of like a cocktail, maybe that’s why I love it so much.”

So there you have it – the convoluted story of a simple thing that will go away before you can read this story and say “I’d like a cup of good ice cream to go, please.”