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You know, ice cream is delicious and all, but it sure is high maintenance for something that’s supposed to be a lighthearted summer treat. Seriously. It’s not just a dessert; it’s an event dessert, a destination dessert. We shepherd the kids through long lines and help them sort through the choices – Cone or dish? Sugar cone or waffle cone? Favorite flavor or something new? They’re out of chocolate. What’s your second choice? It’s a familiar enough ritual, but can easily escalate into a baffling ordeal.

No other dessert has such a sense of immediacy about it. You’ve got to make up your mind in that instant your turn comes, you’ve got to eat it before it gets all messy, and you’ve got to have a strategy to maintain maximum cone integrity so it’s not lost to your shoes or the parking lot. I remember watching my mom dive to the floor to catch my sister’s runaway scoop of ice cream mere seconds before it would have hit the floor. When she jammed that ice cream scoop right back on the cone, the theme from Shaft may as well have been playing in the background.

Ice cream was a huge deal when I was a kid. My mom took ice cream very seriously, which meant we weren’t allowed to buy those inferior popsicles from the ice cream truck. We’d just stand in our kiddie pool and wistfully watch the neighborhood kids line up for Bomb Pops and Fudgesicles. The fact that we had a freezer full of Breyer’s waiting for us after dinner was small consolation, indeed.

Not that there weren’t plenty of opportunities to go out for ice cream. We were frequent customers at our local Baskin Robbins and Friendly’s. (Not Carvel, though. Mom was no friend of Carvel after a particularly unpleasant chocolate incident. We called it “Messy Ice Cream Place.”) Ice cream punctuated just about every happy occasion – we’d go out for ice cream at the beach, after a movie, on long shopping trips. In a very health-conscious household it was the one dessert that was consistently free-flowing. Maybe that explains why, as an adult, it’s the one dessert that I can take or leave.

Actually, I think my detachment from ice cream began during my first summer working at the Hӓagen-Dazs at the mall. Ice cream was my medium, and there was nothing delicious about it. (Okay, okay, except for peanut butter vanilla. That was awesome.) But mostly, it was all about work. I scooped perfect 4-ounce dips. I dismantled and reassembled the frozen yogurt machine with ease at the beginning and end of each day. I made beautiful banana splits and milkshakes – except that one day when the owner paid our shop a visit. Anxious under his watchful, patronizing eye, I turned the milkshake machine to 11 and chocolate-chocolate mint exploded all over the store. And me.

At least that wasn’t as bad as the time a not-quite-empty whipped cream container exploded on my friend when she tried to unscrew the lid. Or the time a newbie accidentally locked herself in the walk-in freezer. Or the time an angry customer threw her dish of ice cream at us (because her husband’s scoop was bigger). And, of course, nothing could top the time I was bitten by a mouse.

Oh, it was tragic. It all started when one of the girls found mouse droppings in a bin of extra sprinkles under the counter. “Don’t use these,” she advised when I came in for my shift later that day. After that, there were mouse traps everywhere, and checking them became part of my opening-the-store duties. Thankfully (for me, not for the customers), the traps were always empty. But one day, we caught one. Sort of.

It was a glue trap, and the mouse’s hind leg and tail were stuck to it. The poor little guy was still skittering along, trying to free himself. Then he tried to chew his foot free. His cute little mousie nose got a little more stuck each time and started to bleed. This was too much for me. I got a plastic spoon and tried to pry the furry little creature loose. I figured I’d put him in a cup and release him in the parking lot. But those glue traps are strong. I tried and tried while the mouse kept nudging his foot with that heartbreaking bloody nose. I almost had it . . . almost had it . . .

And suddenly . . . FREE! I did it! The mouse gave my hand a ferocious bite. Shocked, I reflexively wrung my hand, sending the mouse flying across the room. He hit the walk-in freezer door with a smack, and stuck there with his gluey foot. Dead.

I was sure I was going to be in huge trouble. But the manager and the owner both poured on a terrifying amount of charm and sympathy. They paid for my doctor visit and the horse-pill antibiotics I had to take. (No rabies shots, thankfully.) My mom, who’d boycotted Carvel for years because of one messy-ice-cream incident, was beside herself. She encouraged me to quit, and I was happy to comply. That was the last food service job I ever had.

So, I guess it’s easy to see how my enthusiasm for ice cream waned over the years. But I have to admit, it’s on the rise again now that I’ve got two hungry little ice cream monkeys in the family. Sure, ice cream is messy and inconvenient, and the ordering process can be fraught with anxiety and confusion. But none of that seems to outweigh the pure fun of it all.

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It helps that my kids are hardcore loyalists of plain chocolate and vanilla. It also helps that we live a few blocks from Molly Moon’s, a local homemade ice cream shop that’s devoted to using local organic ingredients and hormone-free dairy. (You just know a place like that isn’t using glue traps.)

Now, who’s got some ice cream stories to share? Favorite flavors? Favorite ice cream shops? Spectacular spill incidents? Let’s hear it!

Views: 22

Tags: baskin robbins, carvel, haagen-dazs, ice cream, molly moon's, rodent-related mishap, snack-related mishap, summer

Comment by Andromeda on June 27, 2010 at 3:36pm
i love homemade ice cream. i make an AWESOME strawberry ice cream from local strawberries when they are in season. they have to be bought from a dusty roadside stand though. those are the best strawberries. then after that i just use cream, sugar, a little salt, vanilla, and some half and half. i have made it with a custard base too (with the eggs and stuff) but i find it's not that much better for all the more work. hmmm... i need to make a batch this year.

i love ice cream in general. i love all the different flavor combos. my 2 favorite commercial flavors are: baskin robbins chocolate peanut butter, and Thrifty mint chip.

some of my favorite summer memories are when i was finally old enough to walk to the strip mall with my friends and we would go for the .35 cent ice cream cone at Thrifty's. somedays i would even spring for the .65 cent double scoop. it was awesome.
Comment by Joe Mama on June 27, 2010 at 5:47pm
Ice cream was always around at our house too. I loved it then. I love it now. I regularly sneak away for a hot fudge sundae for lunch without kids or husband. I spent a glorious summer after my senior year scooping - and eating - ice cream everyday. Everyone said I would get tired of it...they were wrong. I ate almost half a gallon of ice cream a day. Everyday.

I just got my first ice cream maker. I can now die a happy woman - it just can't get better that this.
Comment by Teacher Tom on June 28, 2010 at 7:09am
We rarely went out for ice cream growing up and when we did it was always to Dairy Queen for the soft serve. We did often have cheap boxes of the supermarket brands in the freezer; ice cream so bad that we had to drown it in Hershey sauce to give it any flavor. When we really wanted ice cream, dad would break out his hand-crank ice cream maker and we would spend what felt like an entire afternoon churning that thing until we had the most incredibly ice cream imaginable. For me, good ice cream always meant hard work.

When my family lived in Greece (Dad left the ice cream maker in storage in the states) we would go out of ice cream, but only in the spring when it was fresh. For whatever reason the factories only put out the stuff in one large batch once a year. You could buy it in winter, but it still had the "spring" label on it and was most often freezer burned.

My memories of ice cream are not so good. I like it, but it's not something for which I go out of my way.

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Comment by Mamawho on June 28, 2010 at 8:24pm
Ice cream was a food group at my house. I lived with old folks, who lived almost entirely on dessert, anyway. My grandma always had black walnut ice cream, which I hated. I wanted rainbow sherbet, which she thought was icky.

When my grandparents' best friends would drive to OK from Seattle each summer, they'd stop in Nebraska on the way to see family. Family who grew peaches. They'd show up with bushels of fresh peaches for us, and my daddy had the ice cream maker ready to go. A few hours and many pounds of rock salt later, we had the most amazing peach ice cream. I don't even like peaches that much, but this ice cream was divine.
Comment by zombiemom on June 29, 2010 at 7:51am
Even now, if I hear the tinkly music box sound of an ice cream truck, I have to yell "Ice-Keem! Ice-Keem!" like I'm a kid again. I can still remember running to my Mom to beg for quarters when the ice cream truck would come down our street. Good times.
Comment by mcglory13 on June 29, 2010 at 7:58am
My best ice cream related story is about gelato. I wandered through Italy while I was studying abroad and the gelatarias were just insane. The had it all over ice cream parlors. The giant mounds of gelato with toppings on them? Mouth watering. They've brought this to the states now, of course, but at the time I was like... must eat this. My friend and I had some kind of gelato that was completely fantastic. But we couldn't find the same gelato store again. It was as if it was a magic store that appeared, fed us orgasmic ice cream, and disappeared (or Rome is windy and we were confused).
Comment by mightyninjamom on June 29, 2010 at 9:15am
When I was little, my mother would always buy us neapolitan ice cream. Neither me or my sisters wanted the vanilla or strawberry so there would be battles for the chocolate. That section of the carton would always be empty first. I will never understand why my mom didn't just get chocolate.

Well meaning friends would buy us spumoni, since we were Italian. So obviously we must love it. But as a child, I hated it. Then I tried Fratelli's Not Spumoni version, and was hooked.

I like to make my own and am quite sad that the bowl of my ice cream maker decided to stop freezing. I sent it in for a replacement, and have yet to get the new one. *sigh*
Comment by Floor Pie on June 29, 2010 at 10:50am
JTC, I'm not a fan of Cold Stone, either. Too gimmicky. And buttery. I didn't realize they tout themselves as "gourmet."
Comment by Boring User Name on June 29, 2010 at 11:55am
MW: I didn't know there were peaches in Nebraska. I thought there was only corn and soybeans. And I think I'm serious about that...

My mom loves a local ice cream chain that is very, very high in fat/cream content and drags me there every time she is in town. I think I actually like more sugar and flavor (particularly mint) to my ice cream.

As a kid with two younger brothers (and a mom who loved ice cream), if there was ice cream in the house. You had to eat it immediately-usually for breakfast, or you wouldn't get any. I was amazed when I moved out on my own that I could buy ice cream and it would still be there a week later.
Comment by Mamawho on June 29, 2010 at 12:42pm
I could be all confused, and they picked the peaches up elsewhere. But they left Seattle, drove to Minden, NE, and then to our house in OK. My family in Iowa has orchards, so maybe there are peaches? I dunno.

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