Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Van Wagoners and Ice Cream

On a less serious topic...

In the history of the world there have been a handful of love affairs that are so deep and so passionate that their story must be told.  Some epic love stories end tragically and others in happiness.  Think of the love between Cleopatra and Marc Antony, between Mr. Darcy and what's her name, between Lady and the Tramp, between Niles and Daphne, between Shawn and Juliet.  Today I write of a truly deep and lasting love affair, a lover affair for the generations--the love between Van Wagoners and that most wondrous of frozen culinary creations, ice cream.  The story below focuses primarily on my experiences, but it is common to many of us.

Who knows when in the mists of history that the relationship began?  It's likely that the Van Wagoners (or Gerritsens as they were way back when), were among the early consumers of dairy as the food became established in the Scandinavian countryside.  (Let's not forget that my grandmother is a Blomquist descended directly from strong Swedish stock that most likely loved good dairy as well).  Had I access to a time machine I would travel back to observe the first time an ancestor of mine partook of ice cream and fell in love.

Growing up ice cream was treated as a treasure that was to be enjoyed regularly and in good quantity.  This did not imply, however, that the ice cream supply was to ever be disrespected.  Despite stern fatherly warnings that children were never to partake of ice cream outside of the familial group setting, my sister and I often disappeared into the pantry with a lone teaspoon to satisfy a deep need.  More than one night she and I were sent to bed early once it was discovered that the carton of ice cream had fallen below the level at which it been left when last scooped.  Unfortunately my dear sister wasn't as skilled as was I in taking just enough to be enjoyed without noticeably reducing the supply to a point that resulted in discovery.  Often we lay in our room as I tried to convince her to confess her sin of eating the ice cream so that I could get up and have my share of the frozen concoction.

Many of my favorite memories revolve around ice cream.  One of our little league coaches who owned a dairy often took us across the street to the hamburger joint after games for a large ice cream cone.  In fact the highlight of baseball was the end of the season when our entire team would go to the Lagoon amusement park for Dairy Days.  Free ice cream and milk throughout the day was pure nirvana.

Despite regular opportunities to eat ice cream, often I felt limited in my consumption by parental restrictions.  They controlled my portions at home, because I wasn't allowed to scoop my own bowl of ice cream for several years, and they often controlled how much I had when we were eating out.  One day, while I was in high school, a friend and I were working for a day in a town not too far from home.  The day was hot and we were hungry.  Entering the local grocery store, we gravitated to the freezer and stared at the ice cream.  Our eyes settled on a box of twelve large ice cream sandwiches.  We had enough money and the ice cream looked inviting, but we knew that it was a lot of ice cream and there was no way to keep it from melting in the truck.  Not dissuaded by the challenge, we pooled our money and purchased the box of ice cream sandwiches.  Back in the truck we immediately divvied up the ice cream and proceeded to eat them as fast as we could, one after another.  Through the first three I felt great but not satisfied.  By the end of the fourth one I was starting to feel comfortable.  Once I managed to get the fifth one in I began to worry about the sixth, uncertain that I would be able to start it much less finish it.  The thought of an ice cream sandwich going to waste compelled me forward and I ripped open the package.  To my great benefit it was well along in the melting process and I was able to suck down the sweet, thick  liquid.  Even with the slight belly ache and momentary dizziness, I never regretted the thirty minute period when I ate six ice cream sandwiches.

Skip ahead a few years.  I've just arrived in Siberia, (no really, in the real Siberia), in the middle of December.  The temperature is around -20 degrees and the sun is only up for about four or five hours a day.  Suddenly I notice a person wrapped in furs selling ice cream sandwiches and bars directly from boxes stacked right on the sidewalk.  My initial reaction was to ask, "Who eats ice cream outside in Siberia in the middle of winter."  By the next week I was eating ice cream outside in Siberia in the middle of winter.  I did it that winter and the next.

During several trips overseas I've learned to love different brands, types and flavors of ice cream. German ice cream bars are exquisite.  In China I found several lovely versions.  My love affair deepened beyond belief one day in Prague.  I was wondering an old part of the city by myself when I noticed a gelato stand.  Pushing my way up to the cart I saw something beautiful. Stracciatella.  I ordered a scoop on a cone and meandered away exploring the square.  Shortly I looked up and noticed another gelato cart.  They too had stracciatella and I again ordered some.  And then another.

As I mentioned previously, some love affairs have tragic endings and others end in happiness.  There is a dark side to loving ice cream as we do.  I deal with the best way I know how.  On occasion I curtail the amount of ice cream I consume, attempting to be moderate and wise in my consumption.  As my waistline has expanded and constricted I sometimes find myself more concerned with quality rather than quantity.  The best way for me to deal with such an addiction, such a love, is to run and run and run.  I run around the neighborhood, into other peoples' neighborhoods.  I run half marathons, marathons and relays.  I run, in large part, so I can eat ice cream.

Good or bad, the Van Wagoner-Ice Cream relationship has continued with my children, except for one strange child that only likes ice cream as opposed to loving it.  Ice cream is used as reward and punishment.  It is an outside force that helps to bind us together.  When grandpa shows up for ice cream, we know to get out the big bowl and place in it the proper number of scoops.

I did have one terrible experience with ice cream as a child.  Someone once gave my mother several cartons of raspberry flavored ice cream because a freezer truck had broken down.  (I had nothing to do with the truck breaking down.)  I spent a week and a half eating my way through carton after carton of the raspberry ice cream.  It was too much.  Today I struggle to eat raspberry flavored ice cream...but if it's the only option, I will consume it.

1 comment:

Jarad said...

As an addendum to this post, I would like to share a story from last night. First, about a month ago
Rochelle and I discovered an ice cream place in Henderson called "Sweet Addictions." They make ice cream sandwiches with a variety of ice cream flavors and a variety of cookies. (I love to order a shake with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie thrown in.) So far we've only told our children about this ice cream store...we haven't taken any of them there yet. Second, only about half the members of our family can roll their Rs.

Last night I announced that anyone who could roll their Rs would get to take a trip to "Sweet Addictions" in the near future. The announcement sent of cries of joy as well as wailing and gnashing of teeth. One daughter, not to be named so as not to affect her ability to find a future husband, tried to convince that the gargling noise she made with her spit was in fact the rolling of her Rs. I expect there will be more practice over the next few days all for the love of ice cream.