There are many things that come to mind which are synonymous with the joys of summertime. Warm days, pool or beach time, frigid drinks that freeze your fingers and kids home from school are just a smattering of things that we all love about summer. However, perhaps nothing captures the feeling of the Summer Solstice as much as the sound of the ice cream man. Ice cream is the stuff that summer memories are made of.
Ice cream, gelato, Italian ices and fro-yo are just a few frozen treats that help to cool the heat of summer and bring back the essence of childhood. Who doesn’t remember gathering around the counter of the neighborhood ice cream truck, money tightly clenched in one’s hand, impatiently waiting one’s turn to score a Nutty Buddy or a Marino’s Italian ice? It’s the wonderful stuff from which memories are made. I can still taste that crunchy syrup at the bottom of the ice cup.
In our home, ice cream isn’t just a treat that’s savored during the summertime. It’s with us in the fall, when flavors like apple pie and pumpkin decorate the shelves like so many Halloween decorations. We enjoy it in the dead of winter, when we grab a bowl of Eggnog ice cream and huddle under blankets to stay warm while we enjoy that delicious frozen treat.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had a serious addiction to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. The store, which was formerly located on Hempstead Turnpike in East Meadow, was our Friday night haunt. Baby kicked in delight as I scarfed down bowl after bowl of Coconut Almond Swirl. Holy cow, that stuff should have come with a warning, it was seriously dangerous. Thick ribbons of chocolate meandered through creamy coconut ice cream, while pieces of almond and fresh coconut peeked through the soft white peaks. When I arrived for a prenatal visit at 34 weeks, my obstetrician informed me that I’d put on 40 pounds with my pregnancy and I’d best cut out whatever it was that was tipping the scales. Sadly, my ice cream jaunts were drastically reduced, which was just as well, as my pants no longer fit due to “swelling.”
This week, I discussed ice cream with a few of my friends from Jersey. It all stemmed from an adorable meme of a piglet seated at a picnic table who was happily chomping on some frozen goodness. The meme said, “Sometimes, it’s best to forget everything and just concentrate on your ice cream.” This prompted a few friends to mention their favorite flavors. Everything surfaced, from Rocky Road to Mint Chocolate Chip to those amazing dipped cones from DQ. I quipped that ice cream deserved its own section in the PDR. PDR stands for the Physician’s Desk Reference, which is a gigantic book with the listing of every medication known to man, as well as its side effects and uses. Carrying the book has been known to cause everything from burned ice cream calories to hernias. (I jest, but you get the picture.) It was my intention to let my buds know that ice cream is sometimes a wonderful cure-all. Perhaps that’s why physicians “prescribed” it for children post-tonsillectomy. I recall my husband’s grandmother, who was diabetic. Every night without fail, that woman had an ice cream cone clutched tenderly in her hands after dinner. “It’s my only treat,” she’d muse as I mentioned how awful it was for her condition. Ice cream, to Nettie, was like a soothing balm to her frazzled nerves. It was better than Xanax.
I mentioned the PDR because I felt ice cream had the power to heal. For example, how many times has Hollywood shown a heartbroken leading lady, buried chin deep in a pint of Häagen-Daaz? How often has a desperate parent attempted to coax an unruly child with the lure of an ice cream cone to gain compliance? If you drive past the Ralph’s Ice Cream and Ices on Jericho Turnpike in Syosset on any given night, you’ll find the line is at least 15 people deep. It’s a treat that’s hard to beat. Especially if you subscribe to the belief that “food is medicine.” To people like Nettie, it absolutely is.
I mentioned to my friends that I can no longer enjoy dairy ice cream, but I found a substitute that rivals even the best Baskin-Robbins flavors. Archer Farms, a brand carried by Target, makes a knockout chocolate peanut butter almond milk ice cream that’s smooth and delicious. I’ve converted my husband, who frequently calls out, ala Eddie Murphy, “Ice cream! Ice cream!” whenever we’re within five yards of the stuff. I told my friends that It’s one of the tastiest flavors on the market, although to Hubby’s chagrin, I’m the one who picks out all the ripples of fudge and peanut butter at the bottom of the pint. Whenever he begins to moan that I’ve eaten all the “good stuff,” I remind him that we can always order another pint. He smiles as he walks away, and once again, the belief that ice cream is magic medicine is reinforced once more.
Americans lead the world in ice cream consumption. We eat a whopping 26 liters of the frozen treat per person per year. So grab a spoon and scoop yourself a bowl full of delicious magic that’s sure to cure what ails you.
Patty Servidio is an Anton Media Group columnist.