It was a hot day. We’d been exploring the Storm King Art Center by foot and by tram; we had picnicked and sculpted and now it was time to refill our water bottles and drive home. We could see, near the water dispenser, a vending machine with ice creams. OK, we told the boys, you can each choose an ice cream.
Tragedy. The vending machine was broken.
Plan B: We’ll stop for ice cream on the way home, we promised. The boys were skeptical, hungry and tired. I wracked my brain, thinking of all the fast food joints we’d passed on the way, but couldn’t remember seeing a single decent ice cream place. We needed the Red Rooster. We got in the car and drove, fingers crossed.
And then I saw the sign: Rita’s Ice Custard Happiness. Perfect!
I have to admit, it wasn’t immediately happiness. This:
grand as it is, was a little overwhelming at first, and there were tears from one boy before there was happiness. But I made the supreme maternal sacrifice and ordered one of the two things he wanted (the lemonade ice custard, which I have to say was excellent, with chewy bits of lemon zest), and then we all felt like this:
What’s a summer without ice cream? No kind of summer at all. Last week we made our own It’s-Its, this week, we stopped in at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (where everybody has a good ti-ime) and tried out the ice cream treats on offer there.
Ben, no doubt still dreaming of It’s-Its (and also realizing that everything tastes better when served on a stick), went for the chocolate-dipped “sandae”:
Eli just went for sheer size, choosing the Super Sundae Cone:
He even ate the maraschino cherry off the top, and declared “This is the goodest moment ever!” Which made it a really good moment for me, too.
It’s not, despite the jingle, Rice-a-Roni. No, the true, old school, San Francisco treat is an It’s-It, a chocolate-covered oatmeal cookie ice cream sandwich, originally invented by George Whitney in 1928, and sold for decades at San Francisco’s Playland-at-the-Beach. Now that the playground is gone, It’s-Its are made in a small factory near San Francisco airport. We’ve been driving past the factory for years, and finally the other day I looked at the website to see if they offer factory tours. Sadly, no. We drowned our sorrows in homemade It’s-Its:
Want a closer look? I thought so:
England is not generally known for its ice cream, and that’s ok — having contributed clotted cream (not to mention many fine cheeses) to civilization their dairy reputation is secure. Still, as in Paris, there’s ice cream everywhere here. From trucks that dish up soft serve cones (and, for an extra 70p, how can you resist the addition of a nice chocolatey Flake bar?) to corner store freezers with a fabulous assortment of frozen treats.
Meanwhile, after days of suggesting brightly (usually as a procrastinatory, “I don’t want to go into this museum” kind of tactic), “Let’s have a little feast!” Eli was delighted to find in Oxford an ice cream bar called Feast. He will never think of feasts the same way again.
As Lisa made clear with her post last week, the rules are different on vacation. We stay up later, sleep in (or so we hope), and we indulge in sweet treats and extra snacks — and so it is for the kids, too.
Now I’ve always been a milk shake and ice cream girl, but it turns out my son Ben is more of a fruit ice guy. At home we make tiny popsicles with toothpick holders in ice cube trays, sometimes dropping fresh berries inside them. On our recent trip to England, he discovered ice lollies and at Legoland (where I thought I might truly pass out from heat stroke), when Ben asked for a “star slush” for lunch, I asked only, “what flavour?”