I’ve often tell people if the entire food supply were to vanish I could survive on ice cream alone, assuming it survived the cut. There was a time when I would consume an entire pint for lunch each day. I’d run across the street from my office, pick up a pint and take it back to my desk and dip into it as I continued working. Common sense and cholesterol levels eventually broke that habit.
Today’s blog is all about ice cream. My blogging colleague, Ron Carmean, and I have fond memories as children when ice cream was considered a very special summer-only treat—practically an event! There was no constant supply in the kitchen freezer at your beck and call. Nope, you had to go “out” to get ice cream. There was a small soda fountain kind of store down around the corner from our house. That’s where we went for ice cream. Usually, I’d be sent on the mission to buy it, then bring it back home for the entire family.
Back then ice cream was not packaged. It was stored in 5-gallon canisters that sat in large, rowed freezers each with its own flip-top lid on it. A clerk would use a large spade-like spoon to shovel out the ice cream. Wide wads of it would then be slapped and stacked in a rectangular paper plate about two inches deep. A thin wax paper sheet would be placed over the ice cream and the entire contents went into a regular old brown paper bag. Then I’d run home and hope not too much had melted away.
Well, that’s the scoop on my childhood memories about ice cream. Time for Ron to get his licks in…
We All Scream
For Ice Cream.
I learned these words when I was very young. Just saying or reading them brings back fantastic memories. I’m not just talking about buying Ben and Jerry’s various flavors at a corner store. I’m referring to a family outing involving my parents and brother, and maybe grandparents, too. Sometimes Uncles and Aunts and cousins came in a second car. Normally, only summer vacations brought a caravan like this.
Ice cream parlors–our destination–existed only in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The two we went to most frequently were in a small town in Bucks County (Goodnoe’s) and in no town at all (Greenwood Dairies), just a large parking lot on the side of Route 1. It was always full and its long low building was next to a dairy farm. (As a child, I thought: What a coincidence!)
Inside was an unbelievably large rectangle composed of booths for four adults or large children. Inside this area were waitresses of various ages who scattered to the foursomes, took their orders, and then retreated behind large metal cabinets to fill the orders. Adults gave their selections in calm requests. For children, their orders were surpassed only by Christmas lists in their seriousness. Occasionally, our selections were met with the dreaded “I’m sorry. We’re out of that. What would your second choice be?” This utterance was always followed by groans of disappointment and a reluctant substitution. The interchange occurred just often enough to always be a possibility and, when it didn’t occur, an audible sigh of relief was heard.
As children, we were allowed to pick two flavors, and a topping. Invariably, I got the same order every visit (When would I be back again? Only time for favorites existed.): Chocolate Peanut Butter (still my favorite flavor) and Cherry Vanilla with Crushed Cherries (in syrup). Frequently, I closed my eyes when ordering and crossed my fingers for good luck.
At both locations, having my favorite flavor(s) wasn’t the only reason for my anticipation and, subsequent, elation. The portions were huge. And the toppings were super sweet. Each flavor contained 8 ounces; thus, two flavors = 16 ounces of ice cream. (That’s not a misprint.) The Crushed Cherries topping was finely chopped maraschino cherries in a sugar syrup as thick as corn syrup and red dye. (Much latter in life, a rumor that the red dye had been carcinogenic was passed around at family gatherings as if we were discussing a long dead black sheep of the family. Plus, as an adult, I have to change my topping to a combination of caramel syrup with malt powder.)
I have only one regret each time I return to this memory. At every ice cream parlor I visited, I always found a “pig’s dinner.” I wish I had tried to finish one of them. Each featured an immense amount of ice cream and multiple toppings. If you finished one in a sitting, you were usually given a button or your name was posted in the lobby (and your picture sometimes). Have the contents of a “pig’s dinner” changed over time? On the internet, I found an ice cream parlor in Michigan whose present “dinner” consisted of: scoops of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and orange pineapple ice creams on a banana, with pineapple, wild cherry, strawberry and chocolate toppings. Unfortunately, as ice cream parlors have become rare, so have pig’s dinners.
As an adult revisiting the past, I’m saddened by the lack of ice cream parlors today. I have found places whose existence centers around ice cream. But being in them lacks the feeling of a special occasion I had as a child. I can still find ice cream, but the experience of an exciting and special family event is missing. Hopefully, you can still find such a place that I can visit only in memory.