Ice cream is Proustian. One bite can send you time-traveling decades back, to a hot summer day, when you walked barefoot on shell-dappled Gulf sands, vanilla ice cream dripping over the sides of a cone and onto your fingers. Maybe it was a reward for the first time you lost a tooth, a sweet, cold dish of mint chocolate chip as balm for the pain. A bite of blackberry gelato might conjure up a stroll down a sunny Roman street with a long-lost love. More recently, ice cream has become associated with being a good person and doing good works, even though the product really isn’t all that good for you. Honesty matters. Trust matters. We feed it to our children, after all. This is why Ben & Jerry’s, on its website, stresses its commitment to “progressive values across our business,” “climate justice,” and mandatory GMO labeling. This is why Häagen-Dazs wants you to know that the company has devoted more than $1 million to honeybee survival (“We want to keep those little heroes buzzing”). This is why Breyers pledges to use “sustainably farmed vanilla and fruit” and milk and cream from cows “not treated with artificial growth hormones.” Keeping up with modern times, Breyers also features lactose-free, no-sugar-added, fat-free, half-the-fat, carb-smart, and gluten-free ice cream.
—Mimi Swartz writing in Texas Monthly about Blue Bell, a much-loved Texas company that has recently been plagued by a series of recalls and deaths linked to listeria-tainted ice cream.
Every week, Longreads sends out an email with our Top 5 story picks—so here it is, every single story that was chosen as No. 1 this year. If you like these, you can sign up to receive our free Top 5 email every Friday.
Happy holidays! Read more…
A look behind the scenes of Texas’s decision last year to cut funding for family planning and wage “an all-out war on Planned Parenthood”—and what that may mean for the future of women’s health care:
It was a given that reasonable people could differ over abortion, but most lawmakers believed that funding birth control programs was just good policy; not only did it reduce the number of abortions, but it reduced the burden on the state to care for more children.
That changed dramatically after 2010, when Republicans won 25 seats in the House, giving them a supermajority of 101 to 49 and total control over the law-making process. (The male-female split is 118 men to 32 women.) As the Eighty-second Legislature began, a freshman class of right-wing legislators arrived in Austin, determined to cut government spending—a.k.a. ‘waste’—and push a deeply conservative social agenda. At the same time, Governor Perry was preparing to launch his presidential bid, burnishing his résumé for a national conservative audience. It wasn’t a good time to be a Democrat, but it wasn’t a great time to be a moderate Republican either. Conservative organizations turned out to be as skilled at social media as your average sixteen-year-old, using Twitter and Facebook to chronicle and broadcast every move of the supposed RINOs. A climate of fear descended on the Capitol. ‘Most people in the House think we should allow poor women to have Pap smears and prenatal care and contraception,’ an aide to a top House Republican told me. ‘But they are worried about primary opponents.’
The result, in Texas and beyond, was a full-scale assault on the existing system of women’s health care, with a bull’s-eye on the back of Planned Parenthood, the major provider of both abortions and family planning in Texas and the country. As Representative Wayne Christian told the Texas Tribune, in May 2011, ‘Of course it’s a war on birth control, abortion, everything. That’s what family planning is supposed to be about.’
This year I read a lot of great personal essays, but these were my favorites.
The story of young people moving to New York and learning how to navigate the city, particularly its real estate, will never get old, but it’s hard to do well/without sounding like you’re trying to mimic Joan Didion. I loved Meaghan’s piece because it was so perfectly of its time and place, and yet managed to capture the timelessness of feeling that, for the very first time, you’re really on your own in a city that doesn’t give much of a shit.
No one could quite believe it when Nora Ephron died, partly because she’d concealed her illness from all but her closest friends and family, but also because she was the premiere chronicler of love and relationships and making it as a woman, and if she was gone, what did that mean for the rest of us? There were lots of tributes to Nora Ephron, but Lena Dunham’s resonated the most with me, because she portrayed so beautifully Nora’s brilliance, her empathy and her wit.
The particulars of the story were so outlandish that it almost seemed impossible for someone to write about it eloquently, but Amity Bitzel’s essay about her parents adopting a young man who had murdered his parents, and what it was like for her as a 13-year-old, managed to be affecting and beautiful, and maybe most amazingly, not sensationalistic.
Emily is so, so good at talking about those feelings that you’d really rather not admit you felt, much less put on the internet, and she is also really good at being funny about it and making bigger points about success and jealousy and autobiography. She writes in this piece, which is also about “ladyblogs” and a visit to PS1, “I have made so many decisions based on my desire to never seem publicly weak or vulnerable,” and that seemed like just about the most perfect articulation of human behavior I’d ever read.