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These Cajeta Drizzles Represent Scars: ‘Sad Girl Creamery’ Serves Ice Cream With a Side of Mental Health Awareness

Photo via Sad Girl Creamery.

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]ce cream served with a side of mental health awareness. 

This is the concept behind Sad Girl Creamery, a Latina-owned ice cream pop-up that was seven years in the making opened by SueEllen Mancini.

“I've been wanting to start this for a long time. I definitely wanted it to be Latin-centric and for it to include all the different types of cultures within our culture,” said Mancini. 

What makes her ice cream and paletas different from others is the unique flavors she includes in her menu and how she opens up conversations around mental health, a subject that hits close to home. 

Although she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when she was 26, Mancini said she has been dealing with it since she was 14-years-old. Her Sad Girl’s platform is like a diary where she documents not just what she has learned over the years regarding mental health but also what she's still learning. It’s a safe space for her and anyone who wants to share their mental health journey. 

Arroz con Leche ice cream from Sad Girl Creamery.
Arroz con Leche ice cream from Sad Girl Creamery.

“From my personal experience in an immigrant household, these kinds of things aren't really spoken about. Talking about your mental health or even being sad can sometimes be seen as being weak,” she said via Zoom. “I wanted to put my own experience in it so that people can feel like there is someone there that understands how they feel.”

And she’s right. Although it has become less taboo in Latino households recently, talking about mental health or mental illnesses is still uncommon. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, a little over half of young adults ages 18 to 25 who have a severe mental illness do not receive treatments right away. And although other factors like language barriers, lack of insurance, and legal status can be part of the reason, some are simply afraid to be labeled as locos (crazy). And most do not want to bring shame or unwanted attention to their families.

To begin to dismantle the stigma behind mental illness and mental health, Mancini brought in her ice creams. Each flavor of ice cream or paletas is usually accompanied by an Instagram post where she will touch on a specific subject. For example, in one post, she talks about self-harm wounds and has a picture of her hand holding up a paleta. The drizzle of the cajeta represents self-harm scars. 

“I definitely want to start the conversation not only for other people but to have other people talk to me too,” the 29-year-old said. “And while we work on ourselves, we can chill with some comforting ice cream because you know who doesn't eat ice cream when they're sad.”

“A lot of my flavors are honestly memories of people in my life, the flavors either represent them, or I want to honor a memory of them...”

Few foods have the power to transport you to a specific place and time, and Sad Girl Creamery’s ice cream flavors can do that and more. One scoop of her creamy arroz con leche nieve will have your mind pulling memories of you, your abuela, or mom cooking arroz con leche on a rainy day. The smell of canela in the air will leave you feeling warm inside. For Mancini, it was important to incorporate flavors that resonated with her culture. She made the arroz con leche flavor in honor of her abuela because it was a dish she made often.

“A lot of my flavors are honestly memories of people in my life, the flavors either represent them, or I want to honor a memory of them,” she said. 

From her home in Koreatown, Mancini whips up flavors like Cajeta Latte ice cream, inspired by a cafe in her hometown of Houston, Texas. Other flavors include delicious strawberry tres leches made with homemade strawberry jam and vanilla cake. She’s also done sundaes with Dulce de leche brownies, candied pecans, Mexican hot chocolate sauce, and strawberry rose jam. 

Every month, Mancini studies different desserts from different Latin American regions, including flavors from Uruguay and Chile, where her parents are from. Cuban desserts are also an inspiration for her. 

Most recently, she made an Argentinian ice cream based on the famous dessert called chocotorta. She’s also done a mocktail sorbet of the favorite drink “Paloma'' which originated in Mexico. The sorbet is refreshing, light, and rich in grapefruit flavor. One of the most exciting flavors on her menu has got to be the Mole Negro ice cream, made with La Guelaguetza’s black mole. Most of her ice cream is dairy-based, and she strives to use local ingredients; she is also working on more vegan-friendly flavors for her non-dairy customers.  

Although her journey of starting her own business has been no easy task, Mancini has big plans for her ice cream company. 

“Right now, I'm doing it small and saving money, but definitely the plan is to either do wholesale pints to grocers or, if possible, a brick and mortar, that would be amazing,” she said. 

To order her delicious ice cream, customers can place their order through Sad Girl Creamery’s Instagram page. Each pint of ice cream is $12, and her Gansito-inspired ice cream bars are $6. She hopes that through her ice cream, people will feel empowered. 

“I want people who also struggle with mental health to know that you don't have to doubt yourself and that I know sometimes it can feel limiting,” Mancini said. “But you can overcome these feelings. You are capable of following your dreams.”

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