I spend a great deal of time thinking about food and memory. I sit and think about past meals, cocktails, glasses of wine. I think about where I was when I last had a lobster roll and who I was with and what the weather was like. I think about the first meal I ever ate with Chef Boyfriend and what music was playing and how he stood over that stupid glass stovetop sprinkling the ravioli with fresh sage.
I also spend time thinking about foods I’ll probably never have again. My great-grandmother Bernice’s cinnamon rolls, loaded with cinnamon and butter, light on frosting. I can still smell the warmth they brought to her house. Still see the smile on her face when she presented them to her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. She was proud to have made them and was filled with happiness to watch us enjoy them. When she passed away a few years ago, I cried for my grandfather who adored his mother; I cried for my father and his siblings who were showered with love by this woman; I cried for myself because I never took the time to learn from her.
And I spend an insane amount of time thinking about ice cream. I don’t eat real ice cream anymore. Around my freshman year of college, I started feeling weird after eating ice cream, yogurt, cheese. I was lactose intolerant. My heart broke. Like most midwest kids, I grew up eating dinner with a tall glass of milk. I ate copious amounts of my dad’s homemade ice cream. I looked forward to my mom’s chocolate chip cheesecake at Christmas. I’ve avoided dairy for almost 10 years so I’ve learned to cope. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss ice cream.
My childhood was filled with trips to Heyn’s ice cream on the East side of Iowa City. We’d walk there after dinner as a family, and enjoy our ice cream on the walk home. I was always strongly encouraged to get my ice cream in a bowl because I was a slow eater. But I was also stubborn and more often than not my pink bubblegum ice cream was running down my arms, sticking to the ends of my fingers, smeared across my cheeks.
I had the same problem with Dilly Bars. I wasn’t fast enough for the 85 degree, humid days of Iowa in late August. I would try; would enter each match up with determination. But sadly, would frequently watch my Dairy Queen treat fall from the stick and onto a picnic table and then the tears would come.
As an adult, I still don’t trust myself with frozen desserts. When we go for ice cream at Izzy’s in St. Paul, I always get my sorbet or soy ice cream in a dish. Sometimes I go so far as to order a waffle cone too, but I can’t just eat ice cream off the cone. You’ll find me hunched over my kitchen sink enjoying a popsicle as to not drip on my clothes or the couch. I eat coconut milk ice cream sandwiches over a dish and if I’m successful, I sneak the dish back into the cabinet and pat myself on the back for the victory.
I still think about ice cream. Recall the childhood memories of my family and homemade ice cream, the fantastic film of heavy cream that made its way to the roof of my mouth. Fondly remember my first trip to Italy the summer after high school and the gelato we ate while wondering the streets of Venice. Pistachio, raspberry, stracciatella. As many colors and flavors as I could possible order.
I miss the sticky fingers. I miss ice cream and although there are alternatives, there is no replacement for heavy cream, cooked with sugar and egg yolks, churred into a silky, sweet treat. There’s no substitute for a whipped cream topped, hot fudge sundae. There is no substitute.