Challenging frozen custard’s reign over WI


Photo by Photo by Andrew Himmelberg

Culver’s adds to the list of classic midwestern custard destinations.

To the non-native Midwesterner, the concept of frozen custard seems foreign. Local restaurants and stands like Culver’s, Kopps, Leon’s and Gilles made this frozen treat popular in Milwaukee and beyond. Even with business booming, Marquette students are questioning if custard is really the dessert of choice for hot days.

“I actually have no clue why we are so keen on custard,” said Mickeala Dixon, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. “I actually never noticed personally, but I do know that in the Midwest, specifically Wisconsin, we have a lot of great custard shops for tourists and residents to go to.”

It came to be that many factors, such as tradition, quality, accessibility and even health conditions played a defining factor in whether or not Marquette students preferred custard or ice cream.

“I like custard better, probably because I grew up in very close proximity to a Kopp’s Custard, and am accustomed to extremely high­ quality custard,” said Jason Hubler, a sophomore in the College of Engineering. “I am probably used to the same ice cream as most other people, the stuff from Dairy Queen, Culver’s, and the grocery store. Thus, due to the imbalance in the quality of my experiences with each, I like custard more.”

According to the company’s website, Kopp’s Frozen Custard was the first custard stand to provide the featured “Flavor of the Day” in addition to the traditional chocolate and vanilla flavor selections. Places like Gilles Frozen Custard have been a part of the Milwaukee area for 78 years, which could be a leading factor as to why Midwesterners tend to like custard more.

Although some disagree that there is any real distinction between custard and ice cream, most people who have grown up in the Midwest area say there is definitely a difference. Hubler said that while ingredients contributed to the difference, a true defining quality was texture, custard being smoother and ice cream being more granular.

“I think that custard is special not only because what I am used to is of such high quality, but also because it serves as a focal point for gatherings,” Hubler said. “My family would often meet friends at Kopp’s for dinner and custard, and whenever friends or family came to town, especially if they had never had Kopp’s before, that meant a trip to Kopp’s to either introduce them to it or to give them a rare treat.”

Marquette students from varying parts of the country reported having a preference for ice cream.

“To me ice cream is a pleasure, and it makes me happy. Every time I eat ice cream I find myself dancing a little,” Dixon said. “And then you can choose from so many different flavors. It is a hobby in a way.”

Although the controversy between custard and ice cream throughout the Midwest can go on forever, some people have no preference because of health conditions like lactose intolerance.

Wes Blakely, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he discovered that he was lactose intolerant at eight ­years ­old.

“It hasn’t really affected my eating habits too severely because my mom is also lactose intolerant so most the food that we ate didn’t have dairy in it,” Blakely said. “When I go out to eat though, I often can’t get the best food because of this. It’s really hard to eat dessert at restaurants too.”

Blakely is from the south suburbs of Chicago, where dairy products are apart of everyday meals.

“It’s easy to avoid dairy when you know you can’t have it,” Blakely said. “The only issue I have is that there is cheese on everything and all desserts come with ice cream. I usually just save money and don’t eat out.”

However, despite his intolerance towards dairy, Blakely said he was never a huge fan of ice cream to begin with.

Some desserts that he substitutes for custard and ice cream are pumpkin or dutch apple pie.

“It’s common to get asked, ‘Why don’t you just eat ice cream and take a pill?'” Blakely said. “The pills don’t work.”

Though unable to eat custard, Blakely watched friends develop a love for it through positive experiences. Hubler also made memories through the dessert. He recalls visiting Kopps after band concerts in high school to enjoy custard and each others’ company.

“The best experience I have had (with) custard was not a single event, but a recurring meeting of friends at Kopp’s,” Hubler said.