From jolly old England to my freezer
By Patricia Baer
We all have our vices. I know someday my love of ice cream will be my downfall. Whether in cones, shakes, or sundaes, there is something about this foodstuff that reassures me when days are rough that life is not that bad. It cannot be with something so tasty in it. If stranded on a desert island, I might even swap taking my five favorite albums or movies in exchange for an endless supply of my five favorite flavors.
I would be willing to share my sweet treat with my fellow castaways, however, unlike King Charles I of England. Rumor has it the monarch was so captivated by the dessert that when it was first introduced during his reign, he bribed its presenting chef with upfront money and a substantial pension not to disclose the recipe to anyone so that it could only be served at his royal table. Fortunately for the masses, and unfortunately for the king, that contract was severed when Oliver Cromwell and his men came along.
I do not remember my parents keeping a lot of ice cream in the house during my childhood. Like an English peasant, I too found ice cream to be a treat glimpsed infrequently. It seems like it was reserved for birthday parties, summertime, and Sunday drives. We usually passed through a Dairy Queen drive-thru for that last activity, but occasionally we would stop at a Baskin-Robbins. To me this was like being allowed to enter the king’s court.
The store’s display of its proclaimed 31 flavors in bins under glass made the creamy concoctions seem even more precious and unique. As a kid, being allowed to examine each container and read the names of varieties beyond chocolate and vanilla was like being told, “Pick out something you like,” at Tiffany’s. I was never daring enough to ask for samples of the funkier-named flavors. Sometimes I ventured out of my comfort zone if a title caught my imagination, but generally I stuck with mint chocolate chip, rocky road, and pink bubble gum — the two-for-one treat in my mind at the time.
The “31 flavors” tagline for the store was actually a marketing concept introduced in 1953. The idea was that Baskin-Robbins offered customers a flavor for each day of the month. Now, of course, that variety is not as compelling of a marketing ploy. Walls of pints in all imaginable flavors line every grocery store’s ice cream aisle. Maybe King Charles had the right idea in keeping the formula guarded. With so much availability, some of the “magic” of entering an ice cream shop is lost.
But not all of it. I am still a sucker for a clever or “punny” name. I still enjoy being handed a scoop-topped sugar cone over the glass display, and I am looking for to the comfort of that cool treat once we inevitably crack our first 90-degree day this summer.