I’m lucky. A hand-cranked freezer is the star of my first ice cream memory. I’d eaten the store-bought version before, but making our own ice cream was a special occasion. Vanilla was the norm, augmented sometimes with strawberries, peaches, or bananas. Licking the paddles was the reward for helping with the cranking.
Sometimes — not very often — Dad took us out for ice cream. Whether soft-serve or hand-dipped, he always got a banana split. I got a cone. Chocolate chip was my favorite, but I liked vanilla or chocolate almost as much.
We had Mr. Softee back then — a mobile ice cream shop with soft-serve ice cream and other frozen treats. I became addicted. When the truck came down our street and I didn’t have money to buy something, I’d beg the dealer for a free fix. You think I’m exaggerating, but it really happened — a lot.
I wised up in junior high and got a job in an ice cream shop at the local shopping mall. I graduated from vanilla and chocolate chip to flavors like pistachio, butter pecan, and maple nut. Then I stepped up to the hard stuff: blueberry cheesecake, tin roof, and jamocha almond fudge. Next thing you know, I’m doing bubblegum ice cream with marshmallow topping.
Product knowledge helped me excel at the job. I became a commodity. The manager of a competitor offered me more money for the same work at his shop, which went out of business a few months later. Life is hard when you’re fifteen.
Thanks to those early memories, I crave certain flavors at different times of the year. Easter whets my appetite for some kind of chocolate ice cream with marshmallow topping. The Fourth of July requires red, white, and blue popsicles. In the fall, give me apple-cinnamon ice cream with hot apple topping, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without peppermint ice cream and a little hot fudge.
The new overloaded flavors don’t impress me much. Double-branding makes me nauseous, and if I wanted all that shit in my ice cream, I’d prefer to add it myself, thank you very much.