Making Memories With Ice Cream
Somebody mentioned that July is National Ice Cream Month (proclaimed in 1984 by Ronald Reagan) and shouldn’t I contribute a few words.
Nothing like waiting until the last minute …
So I thought about ice cream and the more I thought, the more I realized that ice cream is as much memory as it is a cold confection. Join me on a stroll down to the ice cream parlor.
Childhood in New York City revolved around the Good Humor Man and Mello-Rolls. The Good Humor Man came twice a day in a white truck with bells. We kids would sit on the curb, nickel or dime in hand, watching for his approach.
Good Humor I-Stix — all-fruit Popsicles — were utter heaven. But snobby little foodie that I already was, the Bittersweet Sundae Cups ran a close second. Mello-Rolls sold by pushcart vendors were paper-wrapped cylinders of velvety chocolate and vanilla shoved into a cone. The image makes me swoon.
My grandmother in North Carolina didn’t have a freezer, only an ice compartment. So when somebody brought ice cream she would scoop it out and pack it in metal ice-cube trays, minus dividers. Those trays spotted at garage sales give me a rush.
My aunt lived in Brooklyn with an Italian shoemaker. I wasn’t supposed to know they weren’t married. Who cared? He bought me spumoni and biscuit tortoni in little paper cups — so elegant, so grown-up. I yearn for them still.
Desserts in the Duke cafeteria were awful, forcing us to take a paper-wrapped slab of vanilla, put chunks on a spoon and dip the spoon into hot coffee.
Coffee ice cream remains my favorite. Starbucks makes the best — not too sweet.
Remember Howard Johnson’s 28 flavors? Black raspberry and peppermint stick ruled during a long, hot car trip.
“How many miles to the next orange roof?” the kids would whine.
Other times I’d pile them and our Airedale Clancy into my Cutlass convertible and head for Dairy Queen. Clancy had a medium vanilla. The cold licks made him sneeze.
Ice cream started going crazy in the late 1980s: odd flavors, milk-yogurt-cream bases. Ben & Jerry brought back the magic.
I lived in Vermont then and remember interviewing the guys at their factory in an industrial building just after the first stock offering.
I called the story “Flavor of the Month: Blue Chip.” I still love their product but can’t get a handle on the ever-changing, politically (and otherwise) motivated flavors.
Lately, I dread the supermarket freezer. Prices are insane. I only buy two-fers. Some flavors are just too lurid: I get moose tracks mixed up with moose droppings. Grasshopper? I think not.
I read about lobster ice cream, chili pepper ice cream, popcorn ice cream — don’t do that, although I once tasted a lovely carrot ice cream. The slow-churned, half-fat modifications work nicely. The process distributes fat in smaller particles for a creamier result.
If I want Oreo chunks in vanilla, I’ll do it myself.
Lately, I’ve been adding fruit: peel and chop one or two overripe peaches, sprinkle with sugar and set aside until juice accumulates. Empty a carton of good-quality vanilla into a chilled metal bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes. With a rubber spatula, quickly fold fruit and juices into softened ice cream, return to carton and freeze. Scoop into a waffle cone and sprinkle with toasted almond slices.
I’ve also tried kiwi with mushy-ripe local strawberries — excellent.
Take from me one more idea for a simple, scrumptious ice cream dessert: Lightly toast thick slices of Sara Lee pound cake under the broiler. Top each slice with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, warm chocolate sauce and aerosol whipped cream. Not as emotionally satisfying as a 10-cent Good Humor … but time and ice cream march on.
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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