Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Scream for Ice Cream

If I have one culinary weakness, it would have to be ice cream. I love ice cream in just about any shape or form. I love traditional favorites like chocolate, and adding in goodies like brownie chunks, nuts, or a caramel ribbon only makes it better. I will eat more off-beat flavors, too, like pumpkin pie or egg nog (two seasonal favorites). I even like the really off-beat ones. Does anyone remember Cold Duck Ice, which they used to have at Baskin-Robbins ages ago, when I was a kid? That is long gone, but I still go for some weird ones like green tea ice cream and red bean ice cream (both of which can be found at some Japanese restaurants). My all-time favorite bizarre flavor was Guiness, which literally tasted just like the beer. They used to serve it at an Irish pub back in the Chicago suburbs, but they discontinued it. Apparently I was the only person who could actually stomach the stuff.

Probably the best ice cream that I've ever had in my life was from a little shop at the Indiana Beach amusement park in Bufu, Indiana or some-such town. It was homemade, and it definitely tasted like it. You could practically feel your arteries harden as the rich, creamy nectar of heaven melted down your throat. The second best was from a riding stable where the owner kept a few cows. He whipped up the ice cream from the fresh cows' milk, and he was a pioneer of unusual flavors like lemon cookie (made with chunks of lemon creme cookies crumbled up in it...mmmmm!).

Unfortunately, the barn owner was also a murderer. It turns out that he had murdered some little boys back in the 1950s and had gotten away with it for decades. Finally he was caught as a side effect of the Brach murder investigation. For more information, Google the name Kenneth Hansen. But in those days, none of us who hung around the barn had any clue. I have fond memories of riding down there for a ice cream cone; my horse knew exactly what I had, and he refused to move unless I saved him the bottom of the cone and slipped him his treat when I was done.

My love of ice cream has accompanied me to Florida; happily, the Sunshine State is condusive to enjoying cold treats all year 'round. I don't have to go too far for my fix, either, as we have Herman's Ice Cream Shoppe right in downtown Celebration.

Actually, my first ice cream addiction was to the frozen cappucinos served at Max's (Market Street Cafe). Both my husband and I fell in love with them; the only thing that made leaving Celebration a bit easier was the fact that we allowed ourselves to stop for one last treat on the way to the airport. Unfortunately, they switched to a new type of machine or some such thing, and their ice cream beverages were not as good anymore. We noticed an abundance of ice chunks...ugh! My new going-home treat became an iced coffee from Barnie's.

Meanwhile, I also discovered Herman's. Although they have excellent food (my husband loves the pesto salad), their ice cream is the true crowning glory. My all-time favorite flavor is bubble gum, which combines two of my favorite vices: ice cream and gum. I come from a very strange family; instead of chewing gum, we eat it. By that, I mean consume it like candy. We pop it in our mouths, chew once or twice, and then swallow it. My brother and I are both living proof that making a habit of swallowing your gum will not result in appendicitis.

My gum-eating makes my husband cringe. I love certain types of candy-coated gum, and once I ordered a huge box from a store that supplies gumball machines as a Christmas treat. Soon enough, I got tired of it and turned the remainder over to my eight nephews and nieces. I don't think my husband believed me about our family trait until the day he saw every one of them rip into the box and immediately start eating the gum. They popped it in their mouths and swallowed it, just as I always did. It may be chewing gum to most people, but it will always be just another form of candy to me.

Anyway, I just love Herman's bubble gum ice cream, but unfortunately they only seem to have it every third or fourth time that I visit. Most of the time, they have a nasty, tooth-jangling concotion called "cotton candy" in its place. Oh well, absence only makes the heart grow fonder.

In order to offset the caloric effects of my addiction, I force myself to walk downtown before I can indulge in a cone. It's only a 20 minute walk from East Village; I'm sure it doesn't burn off even a tenth of the calories in my cone, but it's a psychological thing. I pop into Herman's in eager anticipation. Will they have my favorite flavor, or will I be denied? Will I have to settle for a delicious but inferior choice like Almond Joy, or will I soon be licking a pink, gum-flecked confection?

Today I hiked down for my ice cream; I had missed yesterday due to a rain shower that kept me off the walking path. On my last couple of visits, bubble gum had been missing in action. The last time, they didn't even have the usual cotton candy. Instead, there was a dubious concoction called Superman. I'm not sure whether it was named for its red and blue color; perhaps it actually had powers to render Kryptonite helpless or some other connection to the Man of Steel. No wasn't bubble gum, so I settled for a flavor of which the name escapes me. It was very intriguing...vanilla ice cream with big chocolate chips and cherries mixed in. Not bad, but it still didn't fill my jones.

Thus it was that today I tried again, thinking that the odds must be in my favor. I suppose I could have called ahead, but that would take away all the fun. The anticipation is sadistically delicious. Will I be rewarded or will I be denied? As each step takes me closer to Front Street, my curiosity builds. Will I soon be indulging in my favorite flavor, or am I facing a letdown? It's sort of like scratching an instant lottery ticket, only more tasty.

On this day, Lady Luck was not with me. There was no bubble gum, nor cotton candy, nor even Superman. I was so shocked that I can't even remember the flavor that was occupying the usual spot. In shock, I selected something called Missippi Mud, which turned out to be absolutely godly. It was chocolate ice cream laced with hunks of chocolate brownie and chocolate-covered peanut clusters. Basically, a chocolate lover's dream.

I was still a bit dissapointed, but discovering a wonderful new flavor made it much easier to bear. I walked past the lake and headed back to the walking path, savoring every lick of the cone. It was warm out, so it took some fast tongue gymnastics to stay ahead of drips.

Tomorrow is another day, so I'll try once again for bubble gum. And if it's not there, I'll sooth my sadness with another heaping cone of Missippi Mud. To paraphrase Father Flannigan, "There is no such thing as a bad ice cream."

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