Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ice Cream Season's Coming!

Well I guess it’s that time of year again when the heat and humidity get the best of us. That’s right, it’s time to get in touch with our inner nine year old. You remember him or her, the kid who ran like a world class sprinter chasing down the ultimate in summer time feel good foods in the form of a thatched roof truck playing “The Entertainer” in the key of crazy…I see you remember now and so do I, It’s time for Ice cream.

I’ve spoken about it before and I think it’s worth mentioning again that my formative years of ice cream eating were not kind to me. If my therapist is correct, everything that has ever gone wrong in my life can somehow be traced back to that Friendly’s in Worcester Massachusetts. More specifically, that ice cream eating sidewalk that always managed to get me to part with my single scoop of strawberry.

But then again what would he know, he doesn’t believe cats can talk. A sentiment The Cat most certainly does not share, and has written the shrink several letters (letters that are now in my “permanent record” just in case something should happen) to the contrary. But aside from all my therapist’s thoughts on cats, lime flavored Jell-O and my unhealthy obsession with all things being symmetrical…let us return to the topic at hand.

After my unfortunate first impressions, ice cream decided to let bygones be bygones and came back into my life. No silly people, it didn’t just jump back in feet first as in, “I’m an ice cream cone, eat me!” It came back in a smooth and gentle manner known as soft serve.

I was perhaps six or seven and playing what most boys play in between the dreaded haircuts on the final day of school and picking out corduroys for the return to hell (translate-second grade)…that’s right…baseball. I wasn’t very good as a baseball player. Let me rephrase that… because I could throw the ball a great distance, I was always put in the outfield.

As most pee wee baseball players can attest, a six year old outfielder has as much chance seeing a ball come to him/her as I have of receiving the Nobel Prize for physics. Being A.D.D. the only action I saw in the outfield were the bugs I swatted at. The thing I liked about baseball was hitting, (and I could hit it a ton) the little containers of Tropicana orange juice from concentrate (the “Gatorade” of its day) and the soft serve we would go and get after the game.

Didn’t matter if we won or lost, we all got to pack into the back of our coach’s one ton pickup with stake body sides and go to the Creamy Cone where the coach would buy us all an ice cream. It was a bonus if we won because on the way there, we would get to scream like little banshees “We’re number one” at anybody who would listen. Yes young and gentle readers, this was at a time when sadly… kids were allowed to win or lose.

They were also allowed out of the house without a helmet, a neon yellow safety vest, glow sticks, nap sacks, allergy meds, their own personal water supply or capri sun! Besides…when you’re a six year old doing the serious business of ramp building with a two by ten and a cinder-block …all that stuff is just gonna weigh you down when you’re trying to run back to your house to have your mom douse your road rash in a bottle of Bactine, a half a box of Band-Aids and tincture of iodine. If only I managed to clear that tenth Tonka Truck…Things would have been different and I wouldn’t have been screaming like I was on fire from the application of iodine.

Anyway, I remember distinctly the first time we got to do this because we had won the game. I wasn’t aware there were rules or protocol for the ice cream ordering, so when everybody else was getting cones and I came back to the picnic table that my team was at holding a banana split (I got this out of fear of dropping my ice cream, and because I loved banana splits)…I found out this was a no-no.  But from then on it was all good.

We could only get vanilla chocolate or swirled, but then you could add “Jimmies” (some call them shots or sprinkles) multi colored or chocolate or you could add a shell. A shell was something you could dip the ice cream in that came in flavors from cherry to butterscotch…I always got vanilla dipped in a cherry shell. I’m not sure what was in “the shell” and I’m not sure they even make it anymore… but something that solidifies at less than freezing can’t be good.

After all the good times I had with soft serve I decided to repress my emotions towards hard ice cream and decided it was time to get reacquainted. I fell in love again in one fell scoop… her name was Heavenly Hash…and I was smitten. Where did this come from?! I asked…” Something your mother picked up” dad replied. My dad was a serious ice cream eater and didn’t believe in silliness with regards to his ice cream. He was a straight up French Vanilla or Coffee man.

I liked the vanilla just fine…excuse me French Vanilla. My dad sneered at plain vanilla and explained to me that French Vanilla was better…that was it…just better. I have since found out, French Vanilla is different because it is supposed to be made with real vanilla bean, have a higher milk fat content and is made from a custard base meaning egg yolks were added… all these things mean more flavor either by fat or vanilla bean…fat and flavor both get a thumbs up in my book…just as soon as I put this bowl of ice cream down.

With vanilla I had learned to “top it” with everything from blueberries my mother canned in summer, to maple syrup we damned near had kept a keg of… so as long as you didn’t mind getting creative, vanilla was a solid blank canvas. But Heavenly hash, here was something that needed nothing but a spoon. Heavenly hash for you ignorant of this incarnation of heaven…is vanilla and chocolate ice cream mixed with chocolate chunks and swirled marshmallow fluff….wait for it…and walnuts!

Yup, walnuts… and seeing’s my mother used nuts in everything from breakfast cereal to brownies to Rice Krispy treats…I was a lover of all things nutty. This might actually explain a lot of past relationships I have had. But I digress; here I was with the perfect ice cream. Oh sure I’d add the odd bit of maple syrup now and again, but for out of the box instant pleasure…Heavenly Hash was where it was at.

I was twenty or so living on a steady diet of Ramen noodles, Tanqueray Gin, and thinking of you calls from a company silly enough to give a twenty year old man-boy a line of credit large enough to buy top shelf gin and a TV. I had an oddball job working third shift which allowed me to play golf and drink beer at a time of day most people found shocking on their drive into work. The downside was that on weekends I’d be up when most normal people were sleeping or doing whatever it is normal people do.

So Saturday night was the night I liked to do my grocery shopping. Keep in mind this was before I fully appreciated food, and a shopping cart full of ramen noodles and minute rice brought no shame unto me. It just meant I could buy other important things like fresh limes and ice cream. Chunky Monkey, what in the name of fruit stripe gum is Chunky Monkey?!  Banana flavored ice cream with chocolate chunks aaaaaaaaand…walnuts…winner winner chicken dinner! In the cart it went and from then on I was a changed man.

I started on Chunky monkey which I found to be a gateway drug into other Ben and Jerry flavors. Yes, Ben and Jerry... my two newest BFF’s have been there beside me for quite some time and have rarely let me down. Sure there were the oddballs like “Oh Pear” and “Makin Whoopie Pies,” but seriously who was eating these anyway? I stuck to several favorites in my ice cream rotation.

Over the years of chronological adulthood I have fluctuated in weight and from time to time have been tempted while dieting with such things as sorbet, frozen yogurt, Italian ice, rice cream, low fat ice cream and smoothies. I decided in the end to just leave the frozen stuff alone until such a time came where I could eat super premium ice cream again.

Not too long ago I decided it was time to drop some winter weight and figured I’d give the Ben and Jerry’s Greek Frozen Yogurt a try. Yes I know, Greek frozen yogurt…how very trendy Pav! Yes it happens to be right now, but I have been eating Greek yogurt since before Archimedes knew what 2+2 equaled… ok maybe not that long, but I’ve been eating it since before it came a “style”. Style is a fancy food word people use to pretend there as good as something done the correct and probably more expensive way so they can make money off from the name and make you hate the original.

In this case the folks at Ben and Jerry (as Ben and Jerry themselves have been off fighting oppression brought on by “The Man” ever since selling the company and making more money than “The Man” himself) are just using the word Greek to coincide with the Greek style yogurt craze. As if the word Greek were magic, and would magically turn ass flavored frozen yogurt into something delicious. This isn’t a review in which I’m going to break down the three flavors I’ve tried into cute little sentences like… The fruity blueberry flavor danced on my tongue…. Or… The peanut flavor was so ethereal, I thought I saw God or at the very least one of God’s cousins…

Suffice it to say the stuff didn’t completely suck, but it wasn’t good either. I suppose from a marketing standpoint it’ll be successful but as far as I’m concerned there is just no reason to eat it. There’s no reason to eat it or the other low fat, no fat options of ice cream and it doesn’t matter who makes them. Ice cream is a cool treat to eat at any time of the year, but especially in the summer.

It brings us back to the summers of our youth, when all was good in the world and the only things considered “Diet” were skim milk, Tab and Cottage Cheese. Maybe it’s all about moderation. I envy folks who can pick up a pint of ice cream and it lasts them the better part of a decade. Me, I sit down to watch a baseball game and by the time the national anthem is over, I’m fighting to get the lid away from The Cat so I can throw the container away.

So make the most of these hot days and get yourself a cone or a pint. Give some random kid a buck to go chase down the ice cream truck. Go down to the Creamy Cone or Tasty Freeze or whatever it was in your town and buy a stranger a smile with the simple gift of a swirled with jimmies, and while you’re at it…get yourself one too. Oh, and if you’re a baseball coach, don’t go too hard on the little redheaded kid who mistook get an ice cream for… get the most expensive sundae on the menu board!

1 comment:

  1. Ugh, I tried B&Js fro yo once...never again. I think, if you want ice cream, have it, just a little. The other stuff isn't even worth it! I had a baby cup of chocolate peanut butter cup last Thursday night, and it was heavenly!