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I Scream, You Scream

Thrifty’s Mint n Chip ice cream.  Knee-high to a grasshopper, I remember it being all of 15 cents (9 pence) for a single scoop.  Each lick of the green and brown stuff was like arctic euphoria, and this flavour remained my favoured frosty friend for years.  That is, until I sampled butter pecan and green tea flavours.  And then those two fellas from Vermont had me hooked on their Vanilla Toffee Crunch.  I could easily eat a whole pint in one go.  Ditto for Haagen Dazs’ Pralines and Cream, which has served as my glacial gratifier for the last handful of years.  But above all the aforementioned flavours, there is only one which sent my gustatory cells into a shivery tizzy – Haagen Dazs’ Limited Edition Mascarpone, Passion Fruit & Truffles.  Nobody could talk to me while I ate it.  The lights in the room had to be dim.  And I had to have a blanket on me.

Although accounts of how I licked the life out of my favourite flavours could easily make up the bulk of my creamy chronicles, the chronicles could not be complete without the chase scene.  My childhood involved not one chase scene, but several.  Ice cream trucks frequently drove up and down my granny’s street, and upon hearing that first note of the truck’s melodic chime, I worked myself into a frenzy.  The truck was usually a mile away, but due to my keen sense of hearing when it came to all things ice cream, I would dart inside the house to beg my granny for change.  My granny was usually occupied doing things that grannies do, but because ice cream was the top priority, I always expected her to stop everything in order to get her coin purse and give me some change.  My poor granny was arthritic so it would take her what seemed years to a seven-year-old to shuffle to her room to get her coin purse and shuffle back to the front door to give me some coins.  I usually ended up having to chase the ice cream truck, which had since driven past my granny’s house.  I always bought the same ice cream – Strawberry Shortcake.

On one occasion, I was giving one of my pink plastic performances à la hula hoop.  I thought my audience was only the bougainvilleas and dry blades of grass.  But on a single special day, the ice cream man paused for my show, applauded when my gyrating stopped, and gestured for me to come to the truck window.  He handed me my usual Strawberry Shortcake, on the house, so to speak.

Whenever my cousin Ileana and I would get an ice cream together, she would frustrate me to no end with her failure to lick feverishly.  I would look at her fingers covered in dripping ice cream and feel compelled to grab her ice cream and clean it up with my mouth vacuum.

Maybe it’s obsessive compulsive disorder, or perhaps our dear old friend Freud would say I have a maladaptive oral fixation.  Whatever it is, I currently leave my son with no choice but to let me tidy up his ice creams.  During his first ice cream experience, in a perfect setting of sun, beach and sand, it took everything in me not to seize the deliciousness from him and lick-sculpt it into its former form.  Over the last four years, my little fella has resolved to simply handing me his ice creams when they start melting quicker than his little mouth can neaten the tasty trickles, asking, “Ma, do you want to do your job?”

I was most recently required to do my job while my little prince and I attended a gelato workshop.  A fellow mom organised the class for us and a group of friends at Dri Dri Gelato in Notting Hill.  The kiddos learned exactly how gelato is made, creating their own strawberry gelato and pear and lemon gelato.  They cut, measured, poured, stirred, crushed, juiced, scooped, packed and labelled.  The munchkins even had an opportunity to behold Dri Dri’s original 1960s gelato equipment in action.  When it came time for the taste test, my little Enlai licked the scoop from his spoon, saying, “Look, ma, you don’t have to clean the spoon, there aren’t any drips.”  In a split second, I “accidentally” pushed the back of the spoon down on the gelato, lifting the spoon up to show him that there was indeed gelato residue that necessitated the talents of my tongue.  Gelato instructor Daniella ensured that all the little ones had their own ½ litre of gelato to take home, along with their gelatiere certificates.

Sitting inside the gelateria reminded me of a birthday party I had as a child at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour.  We all sat around a rectangular table, eating ice cream for lunch and more ice cream for dessert.  And then a mini band/choir came out, decked out in their straw hats and shirts with vests and ties, singing their own rendition of Happy Birthday while playing the drums and banjo and carrying sparklers.  As birthday girl, I was treated to Farrell’s Zoo, a gargantuan ice cream treat that could’ve potentially become the 51st state in America.  There seemed to be about ten different flavours, hot butterscotch, fudge and caramel syrups, bananas, whipped cream, nuts and cherries.  It was a birthday party Willy Wonka himself could’ve easily organised.  I’m happy to say that Farrell’s still hosts birthday parties today, but I’m guessing they don’t rock like those Farrell’s parties of the Seventies.  Nonetheless, revellers can indulge in ice cream delicacies with names like “The Pig’s Trough”, “Mt. Saint Helen” and “Gold-Digger”.

There was another popular ice cream parlour called Swensen’s, and I recall some moaning about how expensive their cones were.  The greatest things about this parlour, besides the icy goodness, were the high swivel chairs and the mirror behind the parlour not unlike Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.  One could dizzy herself on her whirligig seat whilst simultaneously perfecting her licking method by studying the movements of the tongue in the mirror.  In one of life’s rare moments, my cousin TC invited me alone to Swensen’s (he invited me to sneak off with him while our granny did her shopping at the market next door).  Being older than me and the one with the cash, he got to choose the flavour.  He said we would share licks.  Somehow he managed to get in ten licks for every one of mine.  No matter.  It was one of the best times I had that whole, hot summer.  Today, Swensen’s is pleasing palates in several countries, but sadly, because we do not have one anywhere in the UK, we are deprived from enjoying such wintry delights as “Sticky Chewy” and “The Earthquake”.

One thing we in the UK can make a fuss of is our ice cream during theatre intermissions.  While I was anticipating seeing Richard II and Coriolanus, part of the anticipation was the half-time icy bit.  Those dainty single serve cups with their provided plastic spoons smaller than the size of my pinky finger made all the politics in Richard II and all the blood in Coriolanus easier to digest.  I hope Enlai develops an appreciation for interval ice cream.  If this gratitude entices him to see a play he wouldn’t otherwise want to see, the ice cream will have worked its magic.

It makes me smile to know my son and I share a love of ice cream.  I am determined to let him enjoy his frozen regalement, interruption-free (i.e. without ma’s mouth coming near it), even if it’s dripping, melting or attempting to stain his clothes.  When he asks me to please not touch his bowl of ice cream because he’s making ice cream soup, I will refrain from grabbing a straw to test that the consistency of the soup is correct.  When he requests chocolate instead of vanilla, I will not try to encourage him to opt for vanilla so as to prevent stains.  And I will teach him that, unlike Prufrock, we should measure our lives with ice cream scoops, not coffee spoons.

Category: Expat Mama, General, Reviews, This Parenting Stuff

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