The devil in the yellow truck

Dec. 14, 2009

by Ivan Raconteur

When we describe them as devils in yellow trucks, we do not mean to suggest that they are evil, but rather that they are traffickers in temptation.

We refer, of course, to the Schwan’s drivers.

The discussion began when I described Schwan’s Andes mint creme pie as heroin in a pie tin.

It includes “Three layers of silky goodness in a chocolate cookie crumb crust, rich, creamy chocolate, velvety mint filling and whipped cream, topped with crushed Andes mints,” and it is irresistible.

I soon learned that others have experienced the same curious addiction to Schwan’s products.

A friend and fellow Schwan’s junkie suggested that perhaps the company laces its products with some illicit substance.

Although their methods may appear similar to those of drug dealers, Schwan’s drivers are even more menacing.

They are not content to lurk on street corners waiting for victims. They come right to our houses.

My first exposure to the temptations of Schwan’s came when I was very young.

Schwan’s was a Saturday night tradition at my grandparents’ house.

Being good Finns, they would have friends over for cards and sauna. Then, grandma would extract the big tin of Schwan’s vanilla ice cream from the Hotpoint freezer, and serve it up in fancy glass bowls with raspberries picked from the patch out back that afternoon.

Grandma never served store-bought raspberries, or ice cream other than Schwan’s.

The company has been a tradition in our family ever since.

Over the years, I have worked with many Schwan’s sales representatives.

These purveyors of frozen fun all had the ability of a serpent to convince pretty girls to sample prohibited fruit.

One Schwan’s man, Rich, used to show up at our place at about 10 p.m. on Saturdays.

He claimed that this was because we were his last stop for the week.

I suspect that he parked down the road somewhere and waited patiently until we had a few pints on board, and then he would swoop in and spring his truckload of earthly delights on us.

One of these late-night sales calls that occurred when we had friends over for a beverage and a bonfire was sufficient to pay for his vacation to Hawaii.

I have heard from others that their Schwan’s man also seems to arrive at times when their resistance is lowest.

A visit from Schwan’s is an event.

My current Schwan’s man, Ryan, is always laughing, smiling, and upbeat. It is clear he enjoys what he does.

Our encounters follow a pattern.

There is a brief discussion of current events and a humorous anecdote or two.

Then, I read my shopping list while Ryan enters the selections into his handheld computer.

He is the Monty Hall of the frozen food industry.

If he happens to be out of an item, he always suggests alternatives, and doesn’t rest until he has found something that will fit the bill, or at the very least, pre-ordered the item for his next visit.

One need not worry about trying new things, because in the unlikely circumstance that one does not like an item, Ryan will cheerfully take it back.

If the shopping list seems unusually short, Ryan remembers (or his computer does) items that one has ordered in the past, and helpfully asks if we need any of this item or that item.

Then, the fun really begins.

Schwan’s representatives study the technique Peter Falk used in his role as Columbo. There is always “one more thing” they want to show a customer, and this is where the willpower and self-discipline begin to crumble like the walls of Jericho.

To commence the final phase of the selling experience, Ryan rolls up his sleeves and launches into a lyrical recital of the current specials, and he presents them as if every one was created just for me.

“I’ve got a really special deal for you this week,” he begins. “I know you’re going to like this one.”

Ryan has a 100 percent success rate, and has never left the bachelor pad without managing to up-sell me on something I didn’t know I needed.

He always saves one kicker for the very end. This is his best deal, and one that he knows I will not be able to resist.

That was how we got hooked on the mint pies mentioned above.

Schwan’s has a wide range of high-quality and convenient products, and the selection is constantly evolving.

Some of these are low fat or low sugar alternatives, fruits, vegetables, or lean meats.

However, anyone who suggests that they like Schwan’s only for the weight-conscious items may be playing fast and loose with the truth. This is rather like a guy who says he reads men’s magazines only for the thoughtful and informative articles. It just isn’t so.

The pie in question is one item a careful consumer is unlikely to buy, unless he is equipped with the metabolism of a hummingbird.

One doesn’t read labels on a dessert like this. If one did, one would find that a single serving includes 500 calories, 28 grams of fat, 330 milligrams of sodium, and 44 grams of sugar.

It may not be wise, but it is the decadent treats that keep us coming back for more. Whether or not they are laced with some narcotic substance as my friend suggested, there is no denying that they are mighty tasty.