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Q+A: Ben and Jerry talk Bernie

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield are heading to Boston on Monday to scoop "Bernie's Yearning" sundaes.

Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry's fame, crafted a Bernie Sanders-supporting flavor cCourtesy of Julia Luckett

“Bernie’s Yearning” is coming to Boston.

On Monday from 12-2 p.m., Vermont dessert titans Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield will be scooping up sundaes of their politically flavored ice cream in a tent outside Ben and Jerry’s Newbury Street store.

Cohen made a big political statement this year when he churned out the limited release variety in support of the presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, a longtime senator from his home state.

It’s a tub of plain mint ice cream with a disc of chocolate at the top – meant to symbolize the concentration of wealth among the country’s highest earners – which you smash with a spoon and mix.

So far few got to try the ultra-rare concoction. Cohen only made 40 pints, some of which were given out to Sanders supporters via online raffle. Sanders himself sampled a pint while a guest on The View.

Ben & Jerry’s, which the duo sold to the multinational company Unilever, has nothing to do with the project and has said it stays out of politics.

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But Ben and Jerry, the people, have become very public Bernie boosters, jetting around the country to campaign. With the March 1 state primary looming, the duo are driving around Massachusetts this week.

A recent poll put Sanders ahead of his opponent Hillary Clinton by seven points in Massachusetts.

Cohen and Greenfield called in to Metroon their way to Pittsfield this weekend to talk Bernie, the future of “Yearning” and the inspiration behind the flavor-making process.


Jerry and I (the people, not the corporation) are teaming up with Ben & Jerry's (the people, not the corporation) to...

Posted by Yo Ben Cohen on Friday, February 19, 2016

Politics and ice cream. Why?

Cohen: We’re doing anything we can to help explain why we support Bernie. We’ve been his constituents for the past 30 years. We’ve never been out campaigning for a presidential candidate before, essentially because there’s never been a presidential candidate like Bernie Sanders before. We can vouch for him. He’s the real thing.

I’m just a guy trying to do whatever I can to get Bernie elected because he is the best presidential candidate who’s come along in my lifetime.

Greenfield: Ben and I are not only ice cream guys, but we’re business people. One of the things that we’re doing is we’re having a meeting of business people in Boston to talk about how Bernie’s vision of an inclusive and sustainable economy works for business.

What has it been like to be using your flavor-making power for political purposes?

Greenfield: I was over at Ben’s house when he was making the 40 pints in his kitchen. It brought back a lot of memories. I’ve known Ben for 50 years and we’ve been making ice cream together since 1978. Ben has made some of the most iconic and brilliant flavors in the history of, I guess, ice cream in the universe. Bernie’s Yearning ranks right up there with the best of any flavor Ben has created.

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You only released 40 pints of “Yearning.” Will you release any more?

Cohen: When I experimented with eating a pint of Bernie’s Yearning I discovered that the concept works really well when you whack the chocolate disk on top and break it up into a bunch of little pieces. When you try to mix those pieces around through the rest of the ice cream it’s difficult to do while it’s still in the pint. It became clear that what you need is a Bernie’s Yearning mixing bowl. I got together with some of my potter friends and we’re just completing a limited run of 50 Bernie’s Yearning ice cream bowls that people will be having a drawing for. If people win a bowl and come to Vermont with their bowl, I will make them a custom pint of Bernie’s Yearning to put in it.”

Do you have any other political flavors in mind?

Cohen: I have thought of another flavor that would focus on the idea that the top one percent of people in the United States own as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. It would be called “Stealth Wealth.” The top 50 percent of the flavor would be a solid chunk of chocolate. Then the question is how do you eat it? The answer is, that’s exactly the point. You can’t.

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Have you thought of a flavor for Hillary Clinton? An attack-flavor, if you will?

Cohen: Bernie is the only presidential candidate that’s inspired me to come up with a flavor. I don’t really want to sully my ice cream flavor mind with coming up with flavors for these other folks.

A lot of flavor making for me is about inspiration. These other flavors that I came up with for Ben & Jerry’s, many of the best ones came from the collective flavor unconscious. There is this kind of cloud of flavors that are hanging out there in the collective flavor unconscious, and I was just able to channel some of those flavors that needed to become tangible. I came up with ‘Bernie’s Yearning’ because I was really inspired. It was really about making a flavor for a movement that this person is leading.

Where will you head next?

Greenfield: I guess we’re not sure after Massachusetts. I’ve been in touch with somebody at the campaign to see what they think would be helpful for Super Tuesday. I’ve been thinking Colorado and Minnesota might be good states for me to visit. I’m certainly going to do what I can wherever I can to get Bernie elected.

We are both all in. We’re totally committed. We’re doing anything we can. We’ve never campaigned for any other presidential candidate before. This is not something we do every four years or that we’ve ever done before. It’s very unusual for us, but we’re that inspired that we want to do whatever we can.

 

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