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August 09, 2007

I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream for Ice Cream!

072907_006b_2 OK.  Maybe "WE" don't all scream for ice cream...  but I'm convinced that instead of "mama" or "dada", the first words I ever uttered were "soft serve".  I think I can actually time line my life to date in ice cream scoops.

When I was a kid, nothing on earth could coax me away from the brisk shower of an open fire hydrant in the height of summer.  Nothing except the tinny jangle of bells from a paleta cart or the warped music box melody from an ice cream truck.  I was a mere puppy to their Pavlov.  My favorite paleta flavor was and is coconut.  For some reason, all the other kids, complained about the bits of coconut in the paleta, but that's exactly why I LOVED them.  I always wonder if they're still $.50.  I'll never forget begging - and i mean BEGGING - my mother for enough change to make a $1 to savor some ice cold, soft serve, chocolate-vanilla twist (nestled deep in a crisp wafer cone).  It never ceases to amaze and depress me that to introduce my own children to these two nomadic dessert novelties, I will actually have to leave the Beverly neighborhood's environs, since here they are both banned.  I sh*t thee not.

Whenever I missed the paleta or ice cream truck man (and yes, he was always a man and even as a child, I thought it was very sexist.  I would've made a GREAT ice cream vendor), I'd explain to my mother, with sophisticated drama and emotion, the devastation and horror of that traumatic fact.

Eventually, she'd give in and walk me to one of two places - the Walgreen's or the Baskin-Robbins.  Does anyone else (besides my mom) remember when some of the Walgreen's stores actually had soda fountains and diner food? I was always assured a scoop of french vanilla, a dollop of paper white whipped cream and a cherry on top of that.  The Baskin Robbins offered (and still offers) amongst it's 31 flavors - Bubble Gum ice cream, which was basically vanilla with teeny tiny, square, multi-colored chiclets in it (now, the ice cream is bubble gum flavored).  I really didn't like that ice cream at all, but I would always order it because for some reason that was the trendy ice cream that all the COOL 7 year old hipsters were devouring. 

As I got a little older, I got invited to birthday parties at Zephyr Cafe and Margie's Candies (which I heard opened a new location on Montrose).  At Zephyr's, the fate temping parents of the birthday celebrant would ALWAYS order the "War of the Worlds" - a dessert (?) consisting of 30 scoops of ice cream and basically the contents of every jar of dry or liquid topping they had in the building.  A similar dessert was also offered at Margie's called the Royal George - a 25 scooper. I can hear the parent's internal negotiation now, "Sugar High/Crash?  They'll sleep it off!  Cavities?  They're baby teeth anyway!  Viral Meningitis?  It'll boost their immune systems!"  Usually, my mother was around to steer me clear of those beasts and to "smaller" sundaes like my favorite turtle sundae at Margie's - which is still almost the size of my head.

When we moved to a nearby suburb for better high school options, I frequented the Sugar Bowl for old fashioned banana splits and vanilla cokes, Swensen's for birthday parties, and the original Ben and Jerry's on Armitage for special trips back in the city to visit friends. 

After graduating college, I hiked around Spain for a while and I'll never forget sharing my first scoop of Haagen-Dazs ice cream with a handsome Spanish goth boy in the Barcelona shop.  Shortly thereafter, I moved to San Francisco where I shared other kinds of scoops with other kinds of handsome boys at Double Rainbow (which opened a Chicago location shortly after we moved back!), Fenton's and Ghiradelli.

Today, the kids, the thin man and I "frequent" our local parlors (especially since my old school parlors - except for Margie's - are all gone) - Oberweis (I try to ignore his politics), Coldstone Creamery and Original Rainbow Cone (when there isn't a line around the block).  I hear a whole new line up of parlors have sprouted up on the north side to replace the old ones, like Australian, Sweet Occasions, Bobtail and Village Creamery (which has Filipino flavors like Buko, Jackfruit and Halo Halo!).  And happily, I have the rest of the summer to check them all out - again and again and again!  ;)


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