Ice cream, perhaps more than any other food, is in our hearts and minds and freezers. We eat it not just at the table but in the park and on the street; and when we wake up in the middle of the night we crave it above all foods. For some people there is no such thing as enough ice cream.

Still, like many things that we love inordinately, we don't examine it all that closely. In our infatuation we ignore those nagging questions that perhaps we should be asking. How do all those Oreos get smashed for Cookies 'n Cream? Why is pistachio ice cream green? And what happens to a Baskin-Robbins flavor-of-the-month when its month is up? We propose to answer those questions, as well as provide other answers that you as ice cream consumers have a right to know.

Why are upscale ice creams invariably named after fake Scandinavian towns?

Reuben Mattus, founder of Ha agen-Dazs, told a Newsday reporter in 1981 that although the name doesn't mean anything in Danish, nor is it any place he knows of, Ha agen-Dazs is Ha agen-Dazs, because it "sounds good."

Mattus sold his New Jersey-based company to Pillsbury in 1983. He is now semi-retired, incommunicado and probably very rich because of those umlauts.

What happens to a Baskin-Robbins flavor-of-the-month after its month is up?

Flavor-of-the-month heaven is located in Burbank, Calif., where the formulas for close to 600 flavors are stored in a locked vault, according to company spokesperson Marilyn Novak. (After all, "IBM locks up their designs," Novak noted.)

While some flavors are reincarnated seasonally (e.g. Winter White Chocolate, Quarterback Crunch), many topical flavors are "long gone and will never come back," said Novak. Among them: Lunar Cheesecake, developed after the 1969 moon landing; Sunflower Power, developed during the hippie era, and Beatle-Nut, named after the famous singing group.

Is there a proper way to eat ice cream, or is it proper to eat it any old way?

Miss Manners responds. "Always lick your ice cream cone clockwise. Why? We don't ask why in the etiquette business. There's a right and wrong but not a because."

To avoid melting: "Lick the overlapping part constantly in swirls. Avoid pushing the ice cream into the bottom of the cone, so that the tip melts. That's a disaster. Then you have to hold it over your head {and suck it out the bottom.}"

To precipitate melting: Although Miss Manners does not believe stirring a bowl of ice cream is appropriate behavior, "everyone knows it tastes better all mushed. Nature has a way of solving this. Get involved in animated conversation. If you talk long enough it will melt. Good conversation doesn't matter. Ice cream is not aware of how witty you are."

Why is pistachio ice cream green?

Pistachio ice cream would look like vanilla if it weren't for green food coloring, according to Stanley Schiffer, an Arlington, Va., flavor broker. Real nuts would give it "little flavor;" that's why it's made with pistachio flavoring, Schiffer added. As for the chopped nuts sprinkled in afterwards, he said, they're added "for publicity."

Will people admit to the most ice cream they've ever eaten at a single sitting?

They will if you ask them at the International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers' annual ice cream bash, where members of Congress, their staffs and families gorged on 2,500 gallons of ice cream and 13,000 novelties last week.

Judy Robinson, who works for Sen. Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico), admitted to consuming 13 cups at last year's event, the majority of them being pralines 'n cream.

"About two gallons of chocolate," fantasized 6-year-old Miya Hunter of Arlington.

Karen Zempolich, who works for Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), remembered consuming "at least" a half gallon of chocolate chip ice cream when she was a kid. The attraction (as with anything we want but shouldn't have a lot of): "it was sweet and forbidden."

How do all those Oreo cookies get broken for cookies and cream ice creams?

No, they aren't seconds or rejects, insisted Caroline Fee, spokesperson for the Nabisco Company, maker of Oreo cookies. They are "specially diverted" cookies, that are broken into either "small grind" (for novelty items) or "large grind" (for half gallons), according to Fee.

Obviously, not all bits of chocolate cookies flecked in vanilla ice cream are real Oreos. Nabisco does, however, sell the two grinds to other ice cream companies as well as use them in its own products.

Fee would not elaborate on the quantity of crushed Oreos the company sells, how many employes are needed for the operation or the type of machine used to do the crushing. (What is this anyway, the race to develop superconductors?)

At least one Oreo crusher was willing to divulge his methodology. Bob Weiss, owner of Bob's Famous ice cream shops, said that when the company first started making its Oreo ice cream, staffers used hammers to smash the cookies. Now the company is "slightly more refined" and uses a commercial mixer, Weiss confided.

Do people who work in ice cream stores eat a lot of ice cream?

Greg Rippey, an ex-police officer and English teacher, who now owns the Baskin-Robbins franchise in Bowie's Marketplace Mall, eats about a quart a day: "I own an ice cream store and I eat vanilla and chocolate only."

Martha Martinez, assistant manager of Swensen's Uptown: "Not after awhile. It takes some people about a month to not want to eat too much ice cream. Now I can't even eat a full kiddie scoop."

The cashier at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in Springfield Mall, who refused to be identified by name: "You don't even want to see it. You just get sick of ice cream."

Why is New Zealand the world's second largest consumer of ice cream? (The United States is first.)

The fact is more interesting than the reason. According to Nicola McFaull, cultural information officer at the Embassy of New Zealand, the dairy industry is one of the country's largest businesses. While dairy products are also one of the country's major exports, we haven't seen much kiwifruit or hokey pokey ice cream, two popular flavors in New Zealand, said McFaull.

What kind of people eat ice cream in the dead of winter?

"The kind who run in the rain," according to Mark Bautista, owner of Cone E. Island ice cream shops.

With all the innovative ice cream flavors available, why is vanilla the most popular?

"For the same reason that most people paint a room beige," according to Schiffer, the flavor broker.

How many tasting spoons does a busy Baskin-Robbins store use in one day?

Anywhere from 150 to 200, said Sonya Hernandez, manager of the Baskin-Robbins at 1823 L St. NW. Hernandez said that sometimes people take five or six tastes, then leave the store. Tacky, tacky.

What makes Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream different from all the other brands?

"Easy," writes Ben Cohen, in the brand new "Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book" (Workman, $7.95). "It's the only superpremium ice cream you can pronounce."

How do supermarkets decide which ice cream products to stock?

A record number of ice cream novelties were introduced to retailers this season, according to Martin Friedman, editor of New Product News, making the freezer case "the toughest battleground in the store right now." Friedman said that somewhere between 120 and 150 products were introduced to retailers this March.

This presents an obvious problem for retailers as far as decision-making is concerned. One solution has been the usage of slotting allowances, or fees that retailers charge to manufacturers to "buy" space in the freezer case. "Retailers are selling real estate," Friedman said. Friedman said that these fees are also being charged for space in other competitive areas in the supermarket and that manufacturers are building their slotting costs into the price of the product.

A few ice cream manufacturers at a recent Food Marketing Institute convention in Chicago said that they have found slotting allowances to be particularly rampant in the Washington area and that the space often goes to the highest bidder.

"We invite and accept slotting allowances," said Brian Dowling, spokesperson for Safeway, who explained that they are primarily used to offset the store's cost of introducing a new item. Dowling said that there is no "set fee" but that the charge depends on the circumstances behind the product (the number of items being sold, the size of the item, whether it is an extension of the same line or a brand new line, and so on.)

Dowling said that slotting allowances are only one criterion used to determine what products to stock. Advertising support, coupons offered by the manufacturer and the chain's past experience with a similar item are others, Dowling said.

Giant declined to comment on its purchasing procedures.

Do you always get a full scoop of ice cream in a scoop?

Not necessarily. Washingtonian Robert Goldman, who used to work at a Swensen's in North Carolina, said that the "art of scooping" involves skimming the scooper around the outer edge of the bin. The motion makes the ice cream curl, leaving a hole in the middle and the impression that there's more ice cream than there is.

What weird questions do customers ask in ice cream shops?

"They ask for a hotdog," commented Glenn Stratton, manager of Thomas Sweet in Georgetown.

Children order quickly, according to Bautista of Cone E. Island -- and usually by color ("gimme the green, gimme the pink"). Conversely, Bautista said, corporate businessmen or "society people" will spend 10 minutes or more searching for a flavor -- "like it's a major decision in their lives. You'd think they were getting elective surgery."

What's the Scoop on King St. in Alexandria has been bombarded by so many offbeat inquiries from patrons that the employes have actually started to record them. Among the questions written on the list taped on the shop's refrigerator, according to manager Lynne Lindsey: "Does the caramel mocha nut have any nuts in it?" and "How many scoops of ice cream in your two-scoop sundaes?"