All images courtesy Tim Lampe
Most of us squandered our summers wondering whether our swimming trunks were normcore, or debating whether “Anaconda” is a feminist anthem. But not Tim Lampe—he had a plan.
Through his Instagram project #SummerOfIceCreamSandwiches, the designer and frozen-treats aficionado set out to capture the glory of ice-cream sandwiches like it’s never been captured before. From Jenga-style stacks, to a mailbox packed with creamy treats, he busted the childhood classic out of the cardboard box and forced the Internet masses to bow down to the dessert’s overlooked beauty.
One notable ‘grammer to take note was NYC food photographer Daniel Krieger, who is no stranger to high-concept Instagram projects himself (his #LunchWithAPhotographer series tracks his eating excursions with other pro shooters). So, as the summer of ice-cream sandos draws to a close, Krieger caught up with Lampe to discuss ice cream–related Guinness World Records, Ryan McGinley, Cronuts, and a bunch of other stuff vaguely related to ice-cream sandwiches.
Here is their conversation, which they swear they were not drunk for, as well as some of highlights from the SOICS series.
Daniel Krieger vs. Tim Lampe: The Ice-Cream Sandwich Inquisition
How did you come up with the idea to photograph ice cream sandwiches?
I wanted to do something to bring out more ‘play’ in my work, mainly to start thinking along the lines of more childhood type of things. When I thought about something that meant a lot to me as a kid, it was [the] ice-cream sandwiches every summer at my grandparents’ lake house.
Do you remember the brand they had? I shouldn’t be eating my lunch right now, but I am.
Yes. The lake house is in Wisconsin, so I believe it was Kemps.
Easy question: Who makes the best ice-cream sandwich? Harder question: the worst?
Best—at least here in Atlanta—is Blue Bell. The worst, to no surprise, is Great Value (Walmart) brand sammies. They actually DO melt, but it’s some weird foaming melty thing, and you can tell they artificially sweeten the shit out of the ice cream. The cardboard cookie crusts are probably a distant cousin of Subway bread.
Is “the melt” very important to an ice-cream sandwich?
Yeah, I think so. It feels natural—ice cream melting, the residue of the sandwich after you eat it. It’s part of the experience. It feels unnatural if it’s any different. You don’t trust it.
Let’s brainstorm here. I think the next logical move is a Guinness Book of World Records attempt for something related to ice-cream sandwiches. For example, the tallest ice-cream sandwich house ever built.
I see where you’re going there and I like it. I have to admit I wasn’t considering a world record, but now that you mention it, I feel like I need to look this up.
I think it would give ice-cream sandwiches a new audience, which is really your overall goal here.
I have not yet saturated the market.
What about an “Ice Cream Sandwich Bucket Challenge” where instead of dumping cold water, you have to eat a large bucket of ice-cream sandwiches and give some money to charity?
[Laughs.] What charity?
I mean, a nice one.
I can see [one] where you think I’m going to get dumped with an ice bucket, but instead it’s ice-cream sandwiches. That would be clever.
If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that people love charities. And free food. Man, they love free food. Even the wealthiest people. They’re front of the line at a free buffet.
People fucking love cruises and food.
Yeah, cruises. They think the food is free, that’s why. Back to the sammies—what cookie works the best as the “bread,” if you will.
Mostly I’ve been doing this project with “classic” ice-cream sandwiches, just because they’re identifiable and consistent, but if I had to say what I prefer, it’d probably be an ice-cream sandwich between two chocolate chip cookies.
That sounds good right now.
Ice-cream sandwiches are universal; it seems anyone across the United States can go to the store and pick up a box of “classic” ice-cream sandwiches, so it feels like we’re all sharing the same experience. But I do love getting fancier, too.
In preparing for this interview, I Googled “great interview questions” and one website had this listed as number one, so I figured it would be a good one to ask: If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in this role, what did we achieve together?
That I was able to make photos that resonated really well with people, as well as get them inspired to create their own type of world similar to what I created with the ice-cream sandwiches.
Good answer. I also looked up a quote—I did months of preparation for this interview. It’s from Jerry Seinfeld, who said of black-and-white cookies, “Two races of flavor living side by side in harmony. It’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it?” Could have been about the ice-cream sandwich, no?
Before I answer that, I also found a quote, and it’s the one that inspired part of this anyway. It was photographer Ryan McGinley and he said, “Find something to be obsessed with, and then obsess over it. Don’t compete; find what’s uniquely yours. Take your experience of life and connect that with your knowledge of photographic history. Mix it all together, and create an artistic world that we can enter into.” That’s mainly what I refer to when I tell people I created this world where ice-cream sandwiches are plentiful and don’t melt, and it’s perfectly normal to see them exaggerated in everyday life.
That’s a great quote. I agree, finding something to focus on is how you create interesting art and, often, success.
It’s true. And yes, the Seinfeld quote could be a direct reference to ice-cream sandwiches.
Which restaurant does an ice cream sandwich as a dessert item?
The best ice-cream sandwich is probably a tie between the mint chocolate-chip sammie at Meatball Shop and a gourmet ice-cream sandwich stand in Atlanta called Atomic Ice Cream Sandwich. What’s your favorite ice-cream sandwich?
My girlfriend made me them for my birthday a few years ago with homemade chocolate-chip cookies and mint-chip ice cream. They were heavenly—check them out:
I honestly don’t eat them anymore. I used to when I was a kid and loved them, but when I have ice cream now it’s usually from some fancy-ass NYC ice-cream place and they don’t sell ice-cream sandwiches in general.
Yeah, those were damn good! I should have filled a briefcase with them and taken a photo, though.
But also I feel like, as adults, most people forget about ice-cream sandwiches because they think it’s generally a kid thing, or because we have fancy-ass ice cream, instead. I can’t believe how many people have told me after this project how they’ve had an ice-cream sandwich for the first time in years, and how much they loved it. It’s a weird reminder.
So are we doing the whole “ICS” abbreviation thing now?
I was only doing it for interview purposes of having to continuously type it out. The project was originally going to be called #SummerOfSammies, but not everyone gets the sammies as ice-cream sandwich reference.
Right, so “Sammies.” Summer of Sammies…that’s pretty brilliant. Have you ever seen a t-shirt with ice-cream sandwiches on it?
No, I haven’t.
We should make one using the photos from your project. I’d wear one. What’s the biggest misconception with ice-cream sandwiches?
That you can only have one at a time, or that they’re only for kids, or that even though it’s illegal to shove 30 of them in another person’s mailbox that you shouldn’t at least try.
All good things to know. Bonus question by one of our listeners. Thomas Hawk asks, “Do they make an ice-cream sandwich with foie gras?”
I think NYC would be the only place that might have a chance of that happening
We actually have a foie-gras doughnut.
I wonder why it’s not as big as the Cronut.
It’s pretty awesome. It had its moment and got a lot of press. Why do you think the Cronut is so popular? I was having this discussion with a few people recently.
People love combining two things, maybe? Or is it just the idea of a new pastry that never existed before? An influential pastry chef here created one last year and called it a douissant, with peaches on top, and it was the best tasting pastry I’ve ever had, so maybe it’s just that it’s good? I’ve never had an official Cronut.
They’re good. The thing is Dominique is an extremely talented, creative dude, so he’s been making delicious tasting things for awhile. He has a pastry called the DKA which is better than the Cronut, but only so many people have heard about that one…that’s the one to get, though the Cronut is also delicious. There’s always going to be something new and slightly different that grabs people’s attention in the food world. Anything else you’d like to plug? Is an ice-cream sandwich book in the works? Any upcoming appearances at State Fairs?
No, but I’d be open to it.
One more. Maybe this is an intro question: Do you know the history of ice-cream sandwiches, like who invented them? Have you ever Googled that?
No, I haven’t and it seems like I should have done a better job of researching ice-cream sandwich history. I feel like with my series I’ve created a world where the ice-cream sandwiches has just always existed. It’s existed as long as rocks have, and we just accept that.
Give me an original ice cream flavor you’d like to see.
That’s tough. Let me think.
Saving the toughest for the last. This is the point where Barbara Walters would make you cry vanilla-tinged tears, my friend.
They are vanilla bean tears, too. Salted-caramel ice-cream sandwiches, but I’m sure someone makes those somewhere.
So is that your final answer, “Vanilla bean tear-flavored ice cream sandwiches”?
Nicely done. Well, thank you for taking the time out today, Tim. We’re all excited to see the next ice-cream creation or other artistic project you have up your sleeve.
Thank you for having me. I feel like the luckiest ice-cream sandwich in the box
Would you be willing to take a short three-minute online survey to rate me as your interviewer?
Yes, of course. You were admirable.
See, that didn’t even take 3 minutes.