My life’s come back to ice cream.
At home as a kid in Kankakee, Illinois, it was an evening ritual to have a bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and some peanuts while sitting in the living room with mom, dad and the brothers watching TV.
The ritual I think, was started by dad, and he certainly kept it going, usually being the one to initiate the filling of the bowls every evening.
I can still hear the spoons scraping every last bit from those sturdy plastic bowls. The sound certainly brought Rusty, the family dog, to his feet. He waited patiently as in turn each of us would finish and place our bowl on the floor for him to lick clean.
In recent years I’ve gravitated back to that ritual, minus the brothers and the parents and the family dog, of course. And I don’t even have the TV watching involved, as I usually have my nightly ice cream snack in bed reading a book.
My ice cream habit started rebounding a few years ago when I began spending summers in the northeast. I joined a bunch of paddling groups and started going out two or three times a week.
With some of my friends, stopping off at a nearby ice cream stand after the paddle was part of the outing.
And even if others didn’t come along, I started stopping off on the ride home at the ice cream stands that the rural northeast offers in plentitude, the ones that are only open during the season. A small building, with an ordering and serving window and lots of outdoor seating, perfect for a snack and some sitting on a summer afternoon or evening.
And it was there that I discovered flavors. Gone was the vanilla with a bit of sauce and peanuts, bring on the peanut butter and the chocolate chunks, not to mention the candy bar spinoffs.
In my second summer season in the northeast I also took a look at the ice cream shelves in the supermarket. Plenty of great flavors, and great prices too. Big Y, a big supermarket chain I go to, stocks three major brands and at least one of them is on sale every week. Ice cream became a nightly snack.
That second year I came back to Florida at the end of the summer with my ice cream habit firmly back in place.
But on my first shopping trip to Publix I was sorely disappointed: a dearth of interesting flavors and prices about double what I’d been used to up north.
And forget about numerous small ice cream stands along the rural roads with their nice umbrellas and picnic tables. There just aren’t any.
Maybe ice cream doesn’t mean the same to Floridians as it does northerners. With warmth all year round having some special place to go to for a cool treat and a bit of socializing just isn’t as important, I guess. And with all the air conditioning everywhere in Florida, the thought of sitting outside in the shade with a bowl of ice cream to cool off does seem sort of silly.
I guess maybe it takes a four-season place to develop a populace eager to sit outside and eat ice cream and say hi to the neighbors on a warm summer evening. Probably because it’s a special thing that can’t be done all year round.
I’m hooked on it.