Monday, September 26, 2005

Ice Cream Lessons

Bet none of you ever thought anybody would need lessons to learn how to eat an ice cream cone.

Well, guess what? My kid, the tyke, nearly out of elementary school, needed LESSONS. And everybody [except me] in the family has dessert on Sunday night. Always, always involving ice cream. But this one only knows how to eat it out of a bowl or off a plate. Or by sucking it out of a glass. Or by glaring at it and subconsciously absorbing it through the freezer door. Or by stealing it in the middle of the night when we are oblivious.

So, as parents, we are seriously remiss. How could we allow a child to get beyond age three without knowing how to eat an ice cream cone? Well, we've been busy, and working, and driving them to a million activities, and moving, and lots of other dumb grownup stuff.

It was the end of summer and a surprise [read: corporate mandatory] vacation for our family, so Dad said to tyke, "We only have three days of this vacation and we'll never get them again, so I think part of your duty, Tyke, is to learn how to eat an ice cream cone PROPERLY. I don't mean just slurp it. I don't mean just look around and let it melt and don't notice the grandeur of it. I mean EAT THE ICE CREAM CONE PROPERLY."

Tyke went into the project fairly motivated. In fact, he was ebullient with the prospect. Every day, without checking his agenda (which he regularly writes in his head and keeps there, because he memorizes things instantly, unlike the rest of us), he remembered that an ice cream lesson was requisite and forthcoming.

And he wasn't silly about the timing. He'd remind everyone when they didn't need to be reminded. He knew when he needed the Ice Cream Lesson.

So, first day, Dad took him out to a nearby frozen custard shop where Dad's sister had worked as a teenager. Dad said he knew he was not looking for soft ice cream, but hard ice cream. After all, you gotta learn on the right material. [Duh, Dad!! Did you notice it is a "frozen custard" place?]

So here's what happened with the frozen custard: Tyke got one. Dad got one. It was soft, owing to humid weather and all, and the hot outdoor testing conditions. The cheap cone was inferior. Both texture and flavor were underwhelming. Tyke got carefully articulated instructions about licking. One lick--and two scoops were on the ground.

Awwwww! Very disappointing. Would have to try it out again! Oh. Boo. So sad. Do you mean I must be tormented, Dad, with more Ice Cream Learning? What kind of abuser are you?

Just as before. The progress bar did not advance. Mandate carved in stone. More lessons necessary.

Next day, additional cone-experienced family members were brought in to reinforce the success of the frozen confection instruction. The whole family charted out possible venues, and strolled exclusive streets for prospects. A small, subtle purveyor, better known for meals than for dessert, drew attention, and the family made a bee-line. The location was almost perfect: nearly deserted (desserted?), with a small but ready staff willing to run down a staircase and back up--several times--with the requested fare.

Fifteen minutes went by before anyone (out of four of us) could decide on a flavor. Maybe partly because the flavor list was just as underground as the gelato in the basement. What the heck flavors do you have? They weren't posted anywhere, and you couldn't see them through a glass case. And the whole time we were there no one else NOTICED this place sold gelato, and no one else ordered it. Hmm.

We put in our orders. And I was all excited because they had a pistachio I thought might be the original pistachio that Gelato used to have (the long-gone shop actually named Gelato) where Honey and I had gone on a desperately deadly hot summer afternoon while walking and getting outside in melting conditions a few weeks before our nuptials.

But even more exciting was watching the tyke, bravely and exuberantly marching into a completely different environment and stating his preference without hesitation.

And this place had a caramel that sounded out of this world, only I didn't order it on account of I wanted the pistachio, and that definitely had to win out no matter what. But I took the "Mom tax" and tasted it and will perhaps forego pistachio in the future.

And I hate ice cream. Unless there are a couple of flavors, and pistachio is one, and burgundy cherry vanilla is probably the other one, I don't see the point in it. Except for a couple of times a year when it is so good it's worth the lactose intolerance and allergic throat.

So the tyke tasted victory on the second lesson! A few weeks later, we took him out to a place near the beach that has gourmet homemade ice cream. The servers slap the ice cream around on a cold marble slab and toss in flavorful additions.

Well, this time tyke got a bit ahead of himself. He ordered a huge chocolate-dipped cone, at least six inches across(!), with a double scoop of "cheesecake" flavored ice cream. This flavor would, of course, not have been my choice, but to each his own. He got about halfway through, with troubled humphing and consternation and, eventually, a greenish tint on his face. Finally, he had to bail out of the operation.

Thus, evaluations are not entirely in for this term of ice cream training.

Looks like he needs a few more classes.


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