Warren Buffett’s recession sundae

by Brian Clarey

Last week the Dow Jones Industrial Average continued its jagged slide towards its bottom. And along with millions of theoretical dollars, the US lost perhaps 200,000 jobs in October. The situation on the ground in the two wars in which we are engaged remains unchanged — which is to say, it’s not good. And the presidential campaign is taking its nastiest turn yet, with continuing worries over voter fraud and some of the most abrasive rhetoric anyone around here can remember. It’s a good time to be a journalist, I suppose, but pretty dark times for every American except maybe Warren Buffett, who did quite well with his investments after the first wave of disaster hit Wall Street. Most of us are filled with angst for the future of our country, and while many Americans are still waiting to feel the effects of prosperity trickling down, we know for dead certain that crap always rolls downhill. Perhaps it’s ironic that I turn to our billionaire financier friend in this autumn of our discontent. In case you didn’t know: Buffett is chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, a giant insurance conglomerate headquartered in Omaha, Neb. It controls a vast ocean of money that comes from insurance premiums and investor capital, and also from the businesses it buys with that capital. Berkshire Hathaway began in 1839 as a textile mill. Now it owns Fruit of the Loom, Benjamin Moore Paints, World Book Encyclopedias, The Buffalo News, Geico… and Dairy Queen. That’s right: The Peanut Buster Parfait is brought to you by the richest man in the world. A word about Dairy Queen, or “DQ” as it’s known to aficionados all over North America. The story begins with ice cream, specifically soft-serve ice cream, which was new in 1938, and a man named Sherb Noble who one summer day in his Kankakee, Ill. burger stand offered his customers all of the soft-serve ice cream they could eat for a dime. Noble’s first Dairy Queen was born two years later in Joliet, and the concept became one of the early players in the fastfood revolution. According to the company website, there were fewer than 10 DQs in the US when we entered World War II in 1941. By 1947 there were a hundred of them, and by 1955 there were 2,600 of them. Today there are about 6,000 of them, one of those just a short hop from my office on Stanley Road. Things haven’t changed much around the DQ, except for the logo, which is still the familiar “Texas stop sign” shape but is now accompanied by a couple swoosh-type adornments. Other than that, the menu has pretty much hit a standstill since the introduction of the Blizzard in 1985. There are hot dogs of many styles, barbecue sandwiches and burgers, but most people come here for some variation of the ice cream. There are Dilly Bars, Buster Bars, the aforementioned Blizzard, MooLatte coffee shakes, dipped cones, frozen cakes, fruit slushes and all manner of sundaes. My choice for the day is the all-time classic, the Peanut Buster Parfait. It is the sundae deconstructed to its very essence: vanilla soft-serve, hot fudge, roasted peanuts with the skin on. No bananas, no whipped cream, no jimmies, no waffle-cone bowl, just a perfect triumvirate of tastes, the salty nuts and hot chocolate set against what I consider to be the best soft-serve in the business. The ice cream swells out from under the fudge, like a marshmallow, and is topped with that little curl that the company has seen fit to trademark. A long red spoon pokes out, specifically designed to fit the contours of the cup so I can dig out every last bit of fudge. It affords me three minutes of perfect contentment that is well worth the nutritional nightmare it gives my body — the Peanut Buster Parfait is the rare dessert that manages to be high in both fat (30 grams) and sodium (360 mg). But there’s also 16 grams of protein, so what the hell. At less than $4, it’s a very affordable luxury, and as Buffett knows, is the best kind of comfort food for our times. Even the man himself must be feeling the pinch — Berkshire Hathaway’s A stock, long considered a solid investment, is down 3 percent, which puts the individual share price at just over $111,000.

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