I was planning on writing something profound about my Sunday today. How it was the fourth anniversary of the attacks, the beautiful weather, the sad, sad situation in New Orleans, the first day of Sunday football and this year’s sudden emergence of ragweed, which is delivering an astounding beating to my sinuses.
Then I realized that, man, I’ve been awfully serious lately. A friend of mine pointed it out to me, too, asking where the photoshopped Jeff-heads have gone and where the “robot birth” posts have been hiding. He was like “man, it’s getting too deep.” While I can’t apologize for that, I do agree. The direction of the blog is the direction of the blog. Things will definitely skew the other way at some point. I’ve been thinking about how ridiculous I can get here and the limits are quite boundless. I’ve even considered posting some self-made videos. I’ve had ideas for short films. I’ve mapped out insane mock television commercials in my head. Maybe someday. First step: video camera. Yeah, that would help.
Anyway, in thinking about all this and deciding to refrain from really going in-depth on what America means on this lovely Sunday, I figured I’d write about a topic near and dear to my heart: Ice cream. What could be more American? Baseball? Bruce Springsteen? I dunno.
I do know one thing: if ice cream were crack cocaine, I’d be doing 65-years-to-life in the county pen. I need it like a drifter needs a warm shower. Or, as Bono once sang, like a preacher needs pain. Much like a lot of other retail products, the progress ice cream has made in the last twenty years has been a bit stunning. Today, choices overwhelm and astound. When I was a kid (say, pre-1985), the choices were pretty few: Sealtest, Hood and Breyers was about all we had to ponder. Oh, how I remember opening my grandmother’s ‘fridge, hoping to find some good ice cream, only to have my soul crushed by the only option: Sealtest Ice Milk. Not ice cream, mind you, but ice milk. Soul crushed, you ask? OK, that’s probably melodramatic. If she didn’t have ice CREAM, I always contented myself with some Strawberry Quik.
Anyway, sometime around the mid-1980’s, “designer” ice cream started weaving it’s way into the mainstream. Many will tell you that it was Ben & Jerry’s that introduced the idea of wild flavors and mind-blowing combinations to storefronts everywhere. Newsflash: that ain’t how it went down. A little place here in New England trumped them in my introduction to ice-cream goodness. Steve’s Ice Cream (now Herrell’s) made its way into our supermarkets and I was all like “whoa, Skor bars in the ice cream!” Another time I remember discovering Haagen-Dasz Rum Raisin – a flavor I still covet to this day. I remember my mother buying this at one point and telling me that I wasn’t allowed to eat it because it had alcohol. Funny.
Anyway, before I get into too much about the history of ice cream, let’s just say it’s a different world today. You’ve seen the frozen food aisle. It’s silly. In keeping with the theme of the post today, these vast choices have afforded me many opportunities to hit the crack pipe. So, aside from local homemade ice cream joints, who typically bring it to another level, here are five of my recent ice cream faves, in no particular order:
Breyers Vanilla: ok, so the first you’re probably saying is, “dude, that’s boring.” So start your own blog and list your favorite ice creams then, ok? To me, vanilla is one of the most exotic ice cream flavors out there. So many different companies output incredibly different variations of it and Breyers is my longtime fave. No bullshit, either. The ingredients are so simple: vanilla, vanilla beans, milk, cream and sugar. Top that.
Starbucks Low Fat Latte: ohhhhhh. This flavor is insanely good. Especially when you get to the end of your bowl (real men do bowls, not cups) and it gets a little melted and coffee-soupish. I find it a little sad that I have to support a chain like Starbucks, but hell, crack addicts have done much, much worse. Odd note: In all seriousness, I can probably count on one hand how many cups of coffee I’ve had in my lifetime. I hate it. But I love the smell of it. Just ask my wife, who consistently finds my nose buried in her Trader Joe’s coffee can, sniffing away. Don’t ask. I clearly love the taste of it, too, as long as it’s frozen and in the form of ice cream.
Brigham’s Peppermint Stick: the little red pieces of candy are like torture. They taste so good, embedded in that mint-flavored ice cream that it’s not uncommon to open the top and see that I’ve created a tunnel almost to the bottom of the carton because I’d found a series of them and followed the path. They stick to my teeth. So worth it.
Brigham’s Frozen Pudding: Simple: when I find the person who made the decision to only make this ice cream available during the Christmas season, I will kill them. Dead. Nobody can take “Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, Raisins, Cherries (Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sorbic Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Water, Colors Added (Yellow 5, Blue I, Red 40), Sulfur Dioxide as a Preservative, Citric Acid), Rum, Pineapple, Pears, Peaches, Apricots, Guar Gum, Salt, Mono & Diglycerides, Dextrose, Polysorbate 80, Carrageenan and Cellulose Gum” and make it taste this good. Nobody. Most people (wife included) are truly disgusted by this flavor. I say “more for me.”
I tpyically stay away from Ben & Jerry’s as their ice creams tend to be a little too rich for me. But every once in a while I’ll dive in, and when I do, it’s Cherry Garcia. Both the regular and the frozen yogurt versions are pretty stellar. It’s a great feeling when you start to unearth a cherry in that pint and as you start to dig, you realize it’s way bigger than you thought and suddenly you’ve got a huge crater in there. It’s sort of like finding a $5 dollar bill on the ground.
So there you have it. My favorites change from time-to-time, but these seem to be ones that bear repeat visits to my freezer. I should also dole out props to Erikson’s Dairy here in Maynard, MA, who have been pumping out the homemade ice cream since your grandfathers were bootlegging whiskey during prohibition. From April to October each year, they pretty much exclusively get my business when it comes to ice cream. Come to think of it, I’ll spare the guy’s life from Brighams, because Erikson’s makes Frozen Pudding available all spring, summer and fall. Nice touch.
Quick sidenote: you must take a few minutes to look at these photographs, a chronological set of photos taken by a resident of New Orleans – there are quite a few, but they are captivating. Hat tip to my friend on the west coast, Fort Miley, whose writing I freely admit to envying. Feel better, man.
Recent ear candy:
Bob Dylan – Visions of Johanna
Bob Dylan & Johnny Cash – Girl From The North County
Son Volt – Afterglow 61
Icecream Hands – Dodgy (coincidence?)
Nirvana – Negative Creep
Warren Zevon – Detox Mansion
Mission Orange – Booze Beaten
Veruca Salt – Don’t Make Me Prove It
Folk Implosion – Natural One
Ware River Club – 50 Years Of Smoking
Guided By Voices – Want One?