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18 April 2007 @ 00:55
Ice cream.  
Ice cream trucks were rare in Victoria when I was very young. They were there briefly, then disappeared, then returned when I was too old to properly appreciate them. But I do remember them from summers in New York where we would go to visit my grandparents. After dinner, just before the lightning bugs started glowing, when the prickly heat was just beginning to ease, we would hear the sounds of the ice cream truck. And because we were on holiday, and there were grandparents about, we would usually get an ice cream.

I was never that fond of ice cream, to be honest, but I never refused it. It was a treat, and the novelty of having that treat drive up to the house, music playing, was too much to resist. I can't remember what I would get, but I remember some patriotic rockets of red, white and blue that my brothers chose. But despite my lack of enthusiasm for the ice cream itself, the memory punctuates those hot New York summers with cicadas humming in the garden, simultaneously horrifying and enthralling me, Concords flying overhead on their way to land at JFK, annual reunions with cousins, and trips to the lake in Connecticut.

When we weren't in New York, ice cream was essentially a tri-annual treat. We were all members of the Baskin Robbin's birthday club which meant that every birthday until we turned thirteen, we received in the mail a gift certificate good for one ice cream treat. This, combined with the actual receiving of mail (a rare thing when you're seven), was a treat indeed and as my mother couldn't justify getting one of us ice cream without taking the others, the treat came three times a year.

Baskin Robbins was famous for having 31 flavours of ice cream. At the time, this seemed like - and perhaps was - a huge amount, but we seldom explored all of them. Tiger ice cream was never as good as its name suggested, containing orange and black licorice flavours, but I often chose it anyway. Mint chocolate chip was a constant favourite, and I sometimes dabbled in the chocolates. For a few years, we got round my mother's no chewing gum rule but ordering the pink or blue bubblegum ice cream. This was a rather vile flavour, overly-sweet even for my palette, but it had chunks of real bubblegum inside. If I ate carefully, I could retrieve the pieces of gum and save them for later. This worked until I realised that neither the ice cream nor the gum was particularly good and then I moved on.

When the last of us passed age 12, the Baskin Robbins trips were no more but my mother developed a penchant for Dairy Queen peanut buster parfaits: large sundaes of soft whip vanilla, hot chocolate sauce, and roasted peanuts still in their skins. I could take them or leave them, and would often order a hamburger instead of an ice cream on these trips, but on hot summer days nothing beat an ice cream sandwich or a treatza pizza.

In Scotland, they take their ice cream very seriously. In St Andrews, the local ice cream shop had ice cream happy hours every weekday, when all sundaes were half price. These were popular even on the coldest daysin January. Edinburgh has had a thriving Italian community for well over a century, and the first immigrants brought their ice cream with them. Any native Edinburgher will argue for hours over what constitutes a slider, how much a 99 cost when they were growing up, and whether nougat wafers are better than cones. I remain silent during these debates, nursing my memories of fudgsicles, ice cream sandwiches, and other equally foreign frozen treats. When it comes to these conversations, whether I actually like ice cream is irrelevant. What really matters is the memory of fast melting cones, dripping on a summer evening, in a different place and time. When it comes to nostaglia, you just can't beat it.

Today was Ben and Jerry's free ice cream day, as good a holiday as any, and the weather co-operated by being sunny if not exactly warm. At noon, I coherced various coworkers into walking with me the ten minutes to the nearest Ben and Jerry's shop, explaining that while we could walk across the street and buy ice cream, that was missing the point. We arrived three minutes before they started serving, and spent the time selecting our flavours. I was irrationally excited by it all, and felt almost child-like as I waited for my cone to be handed over the counter. My grudging companions looks of haughty composure also begam to melt away as they debated which flavour to try, and whose scoop was biggest.

I chose chocolate brownie, the low-fat frozen yoghurt version (I have grown up a little, I suppose). We ate our cones quickly, while walking back to work, and finished before they managed to melt onto our hands and faces. When we got back to the office, the others asked bemusedly if it had been worth it. And while it may not have been a New York ice cream truck on a hot summer night, it was. For just a few moments, when the cone is fresh in your hand, ice cream melts away years.
Ciaraciara_mkb on 18th April 2007 12:49 (UTC)
Well, I'm not a native, but here goes...

what constitutes a slider, No idea.
how much a 99 cost when they were growing up, 50p
and whether nougat wafers are better than cones. hell no.