Crazy liquored-up ice cream collection captures 'free spirit' of F. Scott Fitzgerald's muse

Norman Byrd's picture

Ice cream inspired by the woman who inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald? Although the idea of putting a little alcohol in specialty ice cream might sound like a reach, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is used to following where inspiration leads, no matter how crazy it might seem.

The Columbus, Ohio-based artisanal ice cream company celebrated the reintroduction of America to "The Great Gatsby" with a new line of limited edition ice creams, all inspired by the touted author's muse: His wife, Zelda. The four flavors were derived from different parts of the woman's life and reflect her indulgent lifestyle as well as her love of spirits.

Time for some history: By all accounts, Zelda was a free-spirited woman in the era of the Roaring 20s and the Jazz Age and was described by her husband as the "first American Flapper." In fact, she would be the muse for some of his most memorable characters, like Rosalind Connage in Fitzgerald’s first novel This Side of Paradise and the iconic unforgettable flapper madwoman Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby.

Born a child of privilege in Alabama, according to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Zelda Sayre was quite the socialite in southern society, even as an adolescent. A skilled ballet dancer and recitalist, she was reportedly unimpressed by Fitzgerald when she first met him. It was not until some time later, after Fitzgerald had written his first novel, This Side of Paradise, that she agreed to marry him. The two would move to Paris, where he would write "The Great Gatsby," increasing his fame. Along with his wife, the two would become the embodiment of times.

But there marriage was tempestuous. With her open-mindedness and his need to have and control her, the union was ill-fated. Obsessive to the point of causing self-harm (she was known to practice ballet to the point of exhaustion) would spend time in sanitariums (at one time diagnosed with a bipolar disorder) while he would travel to Hollywood to try his hand at screenwriting. In fact, Zelda Fitzgerald was a writer herself, writing her first novel while in the care of the sanitarium in Maryland. She would later spend time at another sanitarium in Asheville, where she worked on a second novel and painted extensively.

F. Scott Fitzgerald would die in 1940, not having seen his wife in over a year. In 1948, during one of her frequent visits to the Asheville sanitarium, a fire would take Zelda's life as well.

Through the years, popular accounts and fictions often characterized Zelda Fitzgerald as a career liability, a "loose cannon" in the famous author's life that was detrimental to both his ambitions and their marriage. A scathing characterization of her as a harridan by Ernest Hemingway (who new the Fitzgeralds) in his book, A Moveable Feast, did nothing to improve her image. However, later biographies, like Nancy Milford's Zelda, would show her misunderstood by history -- ambitious, artistic, and talented in her own right, but a woman thwarted by the demands of society and a possessive alcoholic husband. With a more discerning and appreciative eye to who Zelda Fitzgerald was and what she was attempting to achieve herself, she is now seen as a woman at the forefront of the early feminist movement.

It is in this more positive light that Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams created "The Zelda Collection," four flavors that exude the spirit of the woman that, as noted on the website, "did whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted -- consequences be damned." In them, you'll find "Zelda, a woman who truly embodied an American age of living in the moment. The collection takes you from Zelda's childhood home in Alabama, to New York, St. Paul, Paris, and on through the Roaring Twenties."

The flavors -- Blackberries + Sweet Cream, Cognac + Marmalade, Dark Chocolate Rye, and Loveless Biscuits + Peach Jam -- are infused with alcohol and are a tribute to different portions of Zelda's life, such as the cognac combo of decadence that conjures up her and her husband's time in France and the biscuits and peach jam amalgam that recalls Zelda's favorite treat. One also might consider that the dual combinations of flavors might also be a nod to the thwarted artist's bipolarism.

But Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams is known for its one-of-a-kind nature. It's co-founder and namesake, Jeni Britton Bauer, has been making a success out of doing inspired ice creams for some time now. Her first creation, Queen City Cayenne, combined chocolate ice cream and cayenne pepper. The artisanal ice creams the company creates are made with homegrown products, local dairy milk, and with traditional ice cream-making methods.

“It is an integral part of our business to use locally sourced ingredients whenever possible,” Jeni explained to the website Women Who Launched. “Or, to use the highest quality exotic sources such from as far away as Uganda, like vanilla beans, and South America.”

Although based in Ohio, the company ships anywhere. With profits in the millions, the family-owned business has expanded over the years, opening satellite shops in Akron, Ohio, and Nashville, Tenn.

"The Zelda Collection" was offered only in a limited edition 60-set batch and, of course, sold out quickly, which makes sense. The nation has gone a bit "Gatsby" crazy, what with Leo DiCaprio's movie doing so well. "The Great Gatsby" was the No. 2 box office draw (behind "Iron Man 3") its debut weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, pulling in almost $51 million.

The soundtrack also debuted on the Billboard 200 at No. 2. The 20s and jazz-inspired soundtrack features songs from Andre 3000 and Beyonce, Jay-Z, Bryan Ferry, Gotye, Jack White, and Lana Del Rey.

(photo credit: Portrait of Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald from Zelda by Nancy Milford (1970), Public Domain)

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