An Ode To The Humble Orange Creamsicle

Illustration by Louisa Cannell.
Do you like orange creamsicles? I've posed the question to many a friend and coworker throughout my life. Most often, I am met with gagging sounds, twisted faces, and exclamations of, "Hell NO!" Of all the sweet frozen treats on a stick out there, somewhere along the way the orange creamsicle got a bad rap as a popsicle reject. But not from me — not now, not ever. They are the most underrated dessert to ever hit the freezer aisle, in my opinion, because once upon a time, a single lick of an orange creamsicle changed my eight-year-old outlook on life.
I was just out of third grade with a chin-length bob, courtesy of a home haircut by my mom. One hot summer day in the park, there were a dozen of us gathered around a picnic table, waiting our turns to pick from recently unwrapped boxes of popsicles. Like a pack of hungry little lemmings, we stood alert and ready for the parents to pull back so we could descend upon the cold treats. Even though I considered myself to be a feisty kid (I dressed up as G.I. Joe for Halloween that year), I somehow got pushed to the back, eventually gave up, and skulked off to the side in defeat while the other kids grabbed their first choice popsicles.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Once the crowd cleared, I approached the table and passed my hands over the vibrant wreckage of ripped boxes. The fudgsicles, my first choice, were gone. The fruit pops (a close second) had been pilfered. All that remained were the creamsicles — not even the strawberry or mixed berry flavors, just the orange kind. I froze, deflated, and sensed my mom's concerned eyes watching me while my friends' stray snickers escaped around the picnic table's perimeter. I had two options: accept defeat, cross my arms, and retreat pop-less to pout, or pick up that unpopular popsicle, paste on a smile, and join my fudgsicle and fruit pop-eating comrades. So, what did I do? I grabbed that orange creamsicle, sat forcibly close to one of my friends and her chocolate-smeared face, and unwrapped it.
As I gingerly tore through the thin and shiny-white plastic packaging, I was struck by just how orange it was — not garish, but glowing. There was a single flash of white vanilla ice cream peeping out near the base of the pop. Was it beckoning at some sweet promise under the surface? Suddenly, I felt hopeful.
I felt the watchful eyes of my peers, eagerly awaiting my next move. I took my first lick. My tongue was hit with something subtly sweet — it wasn't the sharp citrus as I assumed it would be. I moved more confidently on to a bite — off the top right corner — breaking through that gold exterior and into the hint of vanilla ice cream beneath. It was this exact moment that I realized how wrong I had been about the frozen treat.
Orange creamsicles aren't the popsicle rejects, they are the unsung popsicle heroes — more complex than fruit pops, more daring than fudgsicles. They are the popsicles that took a flavor combo chance before trendy flavor combos were even a thing. So, I sat there smiling victoriously at the treasure I had uncovered; I ate the whole damn thing.
Now, nearly 20 years later, my love of orange creamsicles has grown with me. Not just because, after forcing myself to eat one on that fateful day in the park, I realized that the flavor combo of smooth, creamy vanilla and zesty orange is actually perfectly balanced brilliance, but because the pops are tied together with my memory of learning an important childhood lesson. It was a cross between "Don't judge a book by its cover" and, "Don't knock it till you try it" — fitting since a creamsicle is a unique combo of its own. I've since continued to find that embracing the unknown (both with food and in life) can uncover some deliciously worthwhile surprises.
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So, as an adult, when my friends and coworkers inevitably flash looks of horror my way over my popsicle pick — I'll still go creamsicle over fudgsicle any day of the week, just try me — I think back to that fateful park day and suggest they give it just one more chance. Regardless of whether or not I'm able to convert any haters, I'll get a good night's sleep knowing the secret truth held inside my unpopular pop of choice. All it takes is one bite and my face breaks into that same gleeful, victorious smile — minus the cut-by-mom hairdo.