Where did you go on your class trip? Disney World, Disney Land, an amusement park, NYC for a day? As a Senior in high school, my class went to Washington, D. C. for a day, by train. I remember eating dinner on the train. My friends and I bet on the important issue of: would the train’s motion make our peas roll off a plate. (They didn’t.)
But the trip I remember most occurred in second grade. When I was 7, Philadelphia had a number of ice cream factories. I and my little friends visited one of them. Maybe it was Breyer’s. Or Abbott’s. I’m not sure. Ice cream was not looked upon as a health food back then. According to an article in Time magazine (August, 28, 2017), some people extolled ice cream’s nutritional virtues as far back as the 18th century. But we went for a different reason: we would see ice cream being made and, rumor had it, that we would be given some to eat FOR FREE. (We were!)
But that wasn’t the first time I saw ice cream being made. Once, at a family gathering, I saw my Grand-father doing it. He had a large, wooden bucket in front of his chair and he was cranking a handle connected to the bucket. As he did so, a smaller metal bucket inside the wooden one slowly revolved. (see above) In between the 2 buckets, ice cubes and salt were layered to the bucket’s rim. I don’t remember what was in the medal bucket (milk and/or cream, sugar, flavorings). He told me if the cranking went on long enough, ice cream would be made in the medal can. He could have told me gold would appear with enough cranking and I wouldn’t have been more surprised. I asked if I could do it. He said “Yes.” I grasped the handle and churned as hard as I could for a long time. At least more than a minute. But my arm grew tired, no ice cream appeared, and as my Grand-father chuckled, I walked away. (Amazingly, after he churned just a little bit more, ice cream appeared.)
Eating ice cream was a family tradition. Holiday dinners, picnics, Summer’s family gatherings, and best of all: family trips by car to two ice cream selling and eating establishments coupled with dairy farms in a county next to Philadelphia. They were called Greenwood Dairies and Goodnoe’s. The ride was long (an hour) and filled with anticipation. One place was famous for HUGE ice cream cones. Somehow, large quantities (4-5 scoops, I‘m sure) of ice cream were balanced precariously on a cone and began to melt immediately in a summer’s heat. I had to eat fast –and did. The other establishment focused on ice cream sundaes. The most famous was called A Pig’s Dinner. You got a valuable badge if you were able to eat the 6 scoops of ice cream (your choice of flavors), multiple toppings (crushed cherries, pineapple, nuts) with whipped cream and a cherry on top. I never tried to eat so much ice cream. (That came later in my life.) It was a child’s dream: going for a LONG car ride with 3 generations of your family JUST TO GET ICE CREAM.
Gradually, I grew older, but never tired of looking for ice cream. Eventually, I went to college: Penn State University. To alumni, the school’s football team created their finest memories. On the other hand, I and my best college friend (still in touch decades later) created our own memories. Penn State started as an agriculture college in the middle of Pennsylvania. They always (to this day) had dairy cattle. And the cattle produced the school’s dining halls’ milk and, you guessed it, ice cream. Both were exceptionally good. And, best of all, if you wanted that ice cream at a time other than mealtime, they sold the ice cream (with more flavors than vanilla and chocolate) in The Creamery, an on-campus store open to students and visitors all year round.
Once, my friend and I walked from our dorm rooms into the small town next to the college, bought a half gallon of ice cream, took it back to a dorm room and ate it all. It was the closest I ever came to A Pig’s Dinner. The story has remained in our minds and has been passed down to grandchildren.
Penn State, then as now, offered a correspondence course on how to make ice cream. Perhaps you have heard of 2 of their graduates: Ben (Cohen) and Jerry (Greenfield). They’ve made a decent living selling one of my 2 favorite sources of ice cream (see above for samples of their product). I will mention some of my favorite flavors of theirs to wet your appetite. Feel free to make your own list of favorites. Here goes: New York Super Fudge Chunk, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia, Phish, Half Baked, Peanut Butter Cup, Everything But The …STOP! For the exact components of each flavor, check Ben and Jerry’s site online. You won’t regret it.
By now, you can guess what my favorite culinary delight is. Not steak; not shrimp and lobster tail; not even (I hesitate to say this aloud, but we’re all friends here, right) bacon. Obviously, my best source of ice cream is Ben and Jersey’s product. But a close second is …no, not Greenwood Dairies and Goodnoe’s of my youth. They are gone now (sigh). But I do live just a 10 minute drive from another dairy farm (Merry Mead) whose cows provide me with milk (regular and chocolate) and many flavors of ice cream. (see below for specifics) Numero Uno: Peanut Butter Chocolate. And, yes, my wife and I knew that before we bought our home in another county boarding on Philadelphia. But it’s late now and time for a treat. I wonder what’s in our freezer. Well, it’s………….