The good ol’ days. Even the phrase itself conjures up memory treats from a boomer’s past. For humor writer Lucy Iscaro of White Plains, New York, that means the memory of treats from the Good Humor man. But wait! As Lucy writes, ice cream isn’t what it used to be. In fact sometimes it’s not even ice cream.
I bought a product at the supermarket yesterday from the frozen aisle. It was a pint of high protein, low sugar, low calorie substance masquerading as ice cream. It contains skim milk instead of cream and gets its sweetness from exotic substances like monk fruit and stevia leaf extract instead of sugar. That’s why I call it a “product,” rather than calling it what it pretends to be.
I was lured in by the claim that ice cream lovers could eat it all without guilt. I am certainly an ice cream lover and I know all about food guilt. As a woman teetering on the precipice of old age, I know I should keep my weight steady to stay healthy. But I’m sorry, there’s a limit to how many nights I can convince myself that an apple is dessert.
So, with hungry anticipation, I waited while the chocolate chip faux dessert became warm enough to be scoopable. Unlike the old fashioned stuff, it needs to thaw for ten minutes or it comes out of the container in unappetizing shards. The carton promised me that it would be worth the wait.
When I was a kid our freezer was only big enough for a tray of ice cubes. If there was any ice cream coming my way it would have to come from Joe the Good Humor driver, my favorite man on earth, right after my dad. On summer evenings, after dinner and before the fireflies came out, we kids would watch for him while we played. The jingling let us know he was nearby.
Up and down the block kids yelled, “Ma! Ice cream!” and screen doors slammed as we all ran into our houses begging for money.
It wasn’t always a sure thing for me though. Some nights my mother turned me down, knowing that made the delicacies all the sweeter when I got them. If I did get the nod, and the money, my choices were still restricted. My friend’s mom allowed her to get those purple and red ice pops that came conjoined on two sticks. I wasn’t allowed to have those because my mom said they were garbage.
Instead I almost always opted for a vanilla pop coated in a blizzard of snowy coconut. Once in a while, if I had enough money, I’d buy the large vanilla sundae covered in gooey chocolate syrup. Careful carving with the spatulate wooden spoon allowed me to make it last long after my friend’s ices were reduced to lurid rivulets of purple and red streaks down her chin.
This time, having bought the “product” that sounded so good, my kitchen timer let me know it was zero hour. I carefully weighed out the 71 grams that constituted a portion and it looked like the real thing. It even coated my tongue with a cold creamy sweetness. It was almost good. Almost. It wasn’t like Good Humor but it wasn’t an apple either.