I don't know which I'm more a fan of, the ice cream or the sprinkles.

In the interest of full disclosure, I don't eat tons of ice cream. I have a friend who's whole life seemingly revolves around it. Constant monitoring of when the local spots open for the season, when they'll close... you name it. It's an absolute obsession. But in my life, it's always all about the sprinkles.

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I could order any flavor of ice cream on the face of the planet, and I'm always going to coat it in chocolate sprinkles, or how most of us Mainers refer to them... Jimmies. In fact, I've always used to the term Jimmies to describe all sprinkles. But it was made very clear to me recently, Jimmies are only the chocolate ones. The others are rainbow sprinkles... Hmmmm. So why do we call them Jimmies?

It's not just here in Maine, but all over the Northeast.

Photo by James Trenda on Unsplash
Photo by James Trenda on Unsplash

If you were to go to Texas and ask for Jimmies, they're probably gonna look at you funny. But if you're as far away as say Philadelphia, they'll know exactly what you're talking about. But the story of where the name came from is a bit complex. Some say they're named after an employee who made them. Others have tried to connect them with racist connotations.

Photo by Carlos Liendo on Unsplash
Photo by Carlos Liendo on Unsplash

One story claims a company called Just Born, invented them in the 40's and named them after a man named Jimmie, who operated the machine that produced the sprinkles. But there are plenty of stories that predate that. Likely, and most believable, is that they were named after Dr. Sidney Farber, creator of the Jimmy Fund, according to Food & Wine.com.

See the confection connection there?

The story goes that people were selling cones around Boston, and for an extra penny you could add the chocolate sprinkles. The extra penny would then be donated directly to the Jimmy Fund. And all this predates the Just Born version of the story by several years. It's also assumed that's part of the reason it's such a Northeast tradition.

Photo by Acton Crawford on Unsplash
Photo by Acton Crawford on Unsplash

This has since been totally disproven, but there were also rumors that at one time the name was connected directly as a throwback to Jim Crow, and that they were named after him. But that theory was thankfully disproven a long time ago, at this point.

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In reality, it doesn't really matter what you call them. If you go ask for chocolate sprinkles at an ice cream place, you'll get them. If you ask for Jimmies, you'll get them. But let's be real... If you're a true Mainer, there's only one thing you're gonna call them. And it ain't sprinkles...

How many of these little treats do you remember?

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