Let’s Go Get Ice Cream

Photo: Irish Fireside. Album 99s in Adare, 2008

It is that time of year when thoughts turn to cool, and what is more delicious than a cool scoop of ice cream? Ice cream has been a theme in my life for as long as I can remember. When I was a child we lived just a block away from a dairy store that principally bottled and distributed milk from area farms. But, in the front of that store was a cold case where they kept all kinds of treats. For 2 cents I could have my choice of popsicles: cherry, orange or grape. But, for a nickel I could have a drumstick (a cone with vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with nuts) or an ice cream sandwich.

My first real, paying job was at a large dairy store that featured hand-dipped ice cream, locally made. Eight flavors. I earned 60 cents an hour dipping ice cream. Who else but a teen-ager would do that kind of work? When I would close on a Saturday night I would have ice cream up and down my arm and my uniform. My hand needed rest. One might think after doing that job my love of ice cream would fade. But, no. It was fun when there were no customers because I could then experiment with flavor concoctions. Maple nut ice cream with chocolate sauce. So good. Marshmallow sauce on chocolate ice cream with nuts sprinkled on top. Put all of that in the milkshake container and see what happens!

My parents always had ice cream in their freezer. The flavors changed with the season. Vanilla in the summer because there was always fruit for topping or pie, calling for a scoop to finish the plate. In the fall the flavor would likely have nuts: butter pecan or Tin Roof (with peanuts and chocolate). In winter, the freezer always had peppermint stick, a favorite of my mother’s. And springtime could be chocolate with almonds or caramel swirl.

Then there were birthday parties that were all ice-cream and cake celebrations. And the old-fashioned ice cream social that was an annual event in our small Ohio town. Women from church guilds baked pies and cakes that would be sold whole or by the piece and topped with a scoop of ice cream.

Do you remember stopping at Howard Johnson’s when you were out on a family drive? Twenty-eight flavors! How to decide?

Our small town also had a Dairy Queen. It was the place to see and be seen. On a Saturday night the parking lot would be filled and teens would congregate with cups or cones in hand for hours.

As a young adult I thought, why not try making ice cream the old-fashioned way? We bought a freezer that required packing the wooden tub with ice and rock salt. A metal container would be filled with a cooked custard and poured into the cylinder and a paddle inserted. This was a “modern” version, which meant that an electric motor was attached to the top and a cord was plugged in to start the motor. My job at that point was to continue packing the tub with ice and salt until the motor sounded exhausted. I wanted to eat the frozen custard right away, but, no, it needed to “cure” by submerging the cylinder in the ice for a couple of hours. What a job!

When I was a dean at USF, each fall colleges would welcome returning students with ice cream served by the faculty and college administrators. I think that tradition is gone now, but it was fun while it lasted.

Ice Cream became part of our travel adventures. When we were away from Tampa we always looked for the best ice cream shops around. In Oregon, for example, I read about Salt and Straw, and we looked for it in Portland. The line wrapped around the block. Flavors included wild-foraged berry slab pie, honey lavender, cold-brew coffee cashew praline, goat cheese marionberry habanero. And, free tastes of anything you might want to sample. (I see they have now opened a shop in Downtown Disney.)

Today Tampa’s ice cream scene is blooming. Have you been to Chill Bros. and tasted their local flavors? Personal favorites are guava pastelito, café con leche chunk and brown butter praline pecan. Or Jeni’s down near Armature Works? There you can try brambleberry crisp, blackout chocolate cake or Boston cream pie ice cream.

So, give yourself a treat this week. Whether it’s shopping Publix special gourmet flavors or heading for your favorite local shop. And as you devour the ice cream your heart desires, take a walk down memory lane as I did. I’m sure you will find some smiles there, too.

Visit the New York Times
Wirecutter section for reviews of
ice cream makers and the best
vanilla ice cream brand.

Jane Applegate Belzer, retired professor and Dean of USF’s College of Education, joined OLLI in 2012. She has taken OLLI classes in literature, art, history, lifestyles, nature and technology. Jane is a member of the Hiking SIG and the Faculty Support Team. In the past she teamed up with Ara Rogers to teach A Course is Born: From Concept to Classroom, an OLLI course for prospective instructors.

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12 Replies to “Let’s Go Get Ice Cream”

  1. I loved your story; it brought back great memories. We lived in Chicago until I was 5 years old. Every summer, my parents would pack all 6 kids, 2 grandparents, and an aunt and uncle into a station wagon and head to Tomahawk, Wisconsin. One summer we stopped at a Howard Johnson, and while my sister was in the restroom, my dad ordered vanilla ice cream. My sister was so upset, and told him he had no imagination. Thanks for reawakening that memory.

  2. Thank you for this tempting read. Being a little worried about my LDL, I’ve been trying non-dairy low fat ice cream. It’s been surprisingly good!

    1. Chocolate moose tracks! I remember when a movie theater ticket was 10 cents, a nickel for popcorn and then another 10 cents for ice cream on the walk home. Those days are gone forever.

  3. OMG!! What a splendid article Jane. As I read through, I was reminded of my husband, who loves ice cream. Some times, we leave our 3 sons at home and go for an evening drive to get ice cream. Usually from Twisty Treat in New Tampa or Coldstone. For his birthday in February, we tried Chill Bros at Armature Works and it was sooo good.

    Now, I feel like I owe it to myself to seek out my next waffle cone fix!
    Hugs my dear.

  4. Yummy ! And for those of us who are lactose intolerant, you can get scrumptious frozen desserts made from avocado (Cado deep dark chocolate) and oat milk (Oatley mint chocolate chip)…” I can’t believe it’s not ice cream….. “

  5. Love ice cream. Loved your story Jane. Ahhhhhh old times and good times. Now I don’t eat quite as much, but if you’ve got good old fashioned strawberry, I’m all in. Thanks for the great memories

  6. Great article! Made me so hungry for ice cream ! My go to for fabulous ice cream is Dairy Joy on Manhattan.

  7. Very fun article, Jane! Thank you. Love ice cream and those old memories of ice cream as a kid. Thanks for bringing those memories back!

  8. Oh, what a fun read! It brought back memories of sitting on my front porch at age 10 with an ice-cold fudgesicle from the Good Humor man on a hot summer day in Homestead FL (cost a whopping five cents!); hand cranked peach ice cream at my father’s family in South GA, walks to Friendly’s in Chicopee, MA, with my sister for a butterscotch sundae; and homemade chocolate ice milk as a young mom, topped with chopped nuts. Sadly, I’ve become somewhat intolerant to dairy, but when Publix puts their Haagen-Daz on sale, I grab a pint of my favorite Swiss Chocolate Almond, and let the chips fall where they may!

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