Summer Senses: The Taste of Soft Ice Cream

IMG_8312Many foods say “summer” to me.

Corn on the cob, from the farmer down the road.

Tiny wild blueberries, from the secret place our friend knows.

Slightly-charred kielbasa, from the grill on which my husband works his magic.

But one food trumps them all for its ability to put the sensation of summer into every bite, or should I say every lick?

Summer is . . . soft-serve ice cream from a roadside stand.

The North Country has lots of soft ice cream. One place serves only one flavor a day and no one cares because all the flavors are so good. Other spots serve 65 flavors every day.

You can get your ice cream in a paper cup and eat it with a spoon but, really, what fun is that? Soft-serve is at its best when it’s in a cone and you can get the ice cream down into every nook and cranny of the cone by gently tapping the bottom on the heel of your hand.

I’m sure my love of soft ice cream is tied up with childhood memories.

My father loved ice cream; it was a well-known fact. When I was about 5 years old, we moved to a new house, up the road from my grandparents’ farm and at the housewarming party one of the gifts was a huge Pyrex mixing bowl, labeled “Don’s ice cream bowl.”

Because he loved ice cream so much, during the summer we’d frequently make the trip from the farm, about 8 miles, to the Tastee-Freeze. It was Harrigan’s Tastee-Freeze and I can remember their ads used the Irish-American song—“H-A-double R-I-G-A-N spells Harrigan.” The same family owns it today, 55 years later.

Harrigan’s was only open, as are all these roadside places, for a few short, special summer months. For the first week they opened in the summer, they’d give little gifts to every child who came in. Ice cream and a trinket? Heaven to a seven-year-old.

We’d go to Harrigan’s in the pick-up truck, with my sister and me riding in the back on really balmy nights.

My father and I always had vanilla cones and my sister always had chocolate.

But then a new wonder came to town! A stand opened called Finney’s Freezer and they had that modern marvel—the TWIST! Chocolate and vanilla ice creams were swirled together into the cone.

Finney’s Freezer was much farther away from our house than Harrigan’s but my father thought it was worth the trip. He and I always had the twist. My sister always had chocolate.

Now our “local” is a place called the Happy Pike. The Happy Pike is about 6 miles from our house so the 12-mile round trip is a perfect bike ride away, far enough to justify a medium cone, instead of a small!

But, of course, we mostly go by car.

We can sit outside and watch the lake and the boats. We have to eat quickly, of course, because the ice cream starts soft and melts fast, and we chase the drips with our tongues. We always end up with a touch of “brain freeze.”

But then, so soon, summer ends, and the roadside stands are shuttered. Big signs say, “Thanks! See you next year.”

During the winter, I’ll eat regular hard-packed ice cream and enjoy it very much. But I will fantasize about soft ice cream and the end of May when the stands open again, because that will make it official—summer has begun.

I bet you have some special food that says “summer” to you—is it soft ice cream?


38 thoughts on “Summer Senses: The Taste of Soft Ice Cream

  1. “The Happy Pike is about 6 miles from our house so the 12-mile round trip is a perfect bike ride away, far enough to justify a medium cone, instead of a small!

    But, of course, we mostly go by car.”
    Ha! This made me laugh. But what delightful ice cream memories you have. Fresh berries mean summer for me; fresh picked raspberries and strawberries. In my young days, it was a special type of apricot, the moorpark but they are hard to get these days.

    • Fresh berries are so special–we get used to what they taste like from the grocery store and can forget what they’re supposed to taste like! I’ve never heard of that kind of apricot but apricots, in general, are not really part of my world. We never had them when I was a kid and I never got a taste for them.

  2. Oh, what a lovely post! I will reply properly later as I have just taken all morning to edit a new post on my blog and have some errands to run. I did not want you to think I was not loving your ice cream dream post!
    Just off the cuff….it was not ice cream which was my summer dream, but it was the fruit which my Grandma grew in her garden. She had no fridge, but a cool ‘thrawl’ in her pantry. A thrawl is a term to describe a shelf made of slate or stone which was cool. I think it is a word only used in a few counties in the Midlands- my Grandma lived in Leicestershire. On this thrawl she would pile raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants and later, plums.
    I was allowed to eat as many as I liked- this was my Summer treat.
    There! I did it after all….now for the errands!

    • For a busy person, in a rush, you did great! Thanks for taking the time–I always love your comments. And the detail about the thrawl is so interesting–another new concept I’ve never heard of before. I can just see, in my imagination, that big pile of berries–it might just make me forget ice cream . . .

  3. Summer=cantaloupe for me. Yes, you can get it year round, but the juicy sweet kind only show up in the summer. Fresh cherries are a close second. This has been a great year for northwest cherries. Oh, I like ice cream, too, though soft serve wasn’t big where I grew up. NE Ohio, where I now live, goes in for frozen custard.

    • I like how different regions have different ice cream traditions. I’m not sure they taste really different (a research project I could get behind!) but they have different names for sure! I agree about fresh cherries–I eat pounds of them in the summer!

  4. mmm soft serve… When I was little there was a Dairy Dream nearby. In my memory we only went after dark, so it must have been very late for a very little girl, indeed! One of my favorite small memories of my mom was when I was in high school. While we watched TV one afternoon, a commercial came on for Dairy Queen’s peanut buster parfait. Now, that particular treat didn’t entice us, but just the thought of soft serve did. And we searched the house and between the cushions to come up with enough change for a DQ!

    My summer food, though, is homegrown tomatoes. You know, there’s only two things that money can’t buy. One is true love, and one is homegrown tomatoes!

  5. My girlfriend, Karen, and I would take the salt shaker out to my father’s garden and eat tomatoes. After that we’d head over to the grape arbor and have some grapes or perhaps pick some peaches. Karen had a cherry tree in her yard and we did a pretty good job on that as well. We loved our just picked fruits and vegetables. We had green beans and corn in our garden too….these are all summer to me.

    We had a Dairy Queen and a Carvel fairly close by. I think the Dairy Queen was open year round. My brother would take our orders and drive there and back…it was so close that there was hardly any melting inside the styrofoam containers. My mother always had a pineapple sundae with chocolate soft serve and I usually had a butterscotch sundae with nuts sprinkled on top.

    Gee…now I’m hungry!

    • What a great bunch of memories you have! And you must’ve been the healthiest kids in the world, with all those fresh fruits and veg. When corn is in season, we eat corn on the cob pretty much every day–there’s nothing like it!

  6. Isn’t that funny? I dislike soft ice cream and go without if that’s all that’s on offer. I want my ice cream made of dairy cream,and summer fruits, and all those things that won’t serve as soft as the ice cream I imagine you mean. But maybe American soft ice is different. I’ll have to come and find out! Meanwhile, summer for me means raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, cherries……..

    • I wonder if our soft ice cream is different than yours or if I love ours so much because it’s what I’m used to. I do sometimes make ice cream with eggs and cream and it is amazing. I love it and I love the soft serve–room for both in my life! And, yes, berries–the more, the better.

  7. I can still hear my Dad call up the stairs “Who wants to go to Toot ‘N Tell?” and 3 pairs of feet would run down! Toot ‘N Tell was a local drive-in and I would get a small root beer float. Eating ice cream in the car, in your jammies, on a hot summer night–a memory for a lifetime!

    • Where are you from? We had a drive-in place called “Toot and Tell ‘Em,” too, and I thought it was just a local spot but I guess the name, at least, was popular elsewhere. The idea of going to a drive-in spot and having the server come to the car with one of those little trays that hooked to the car window still makes me smile! You’re right–an awesome memory!

  8. I don’t eat icecream any more – but soft serve was always my favourite. Especially the one dipped into the hot chocolate coating which set hard immediately. Sooooo messy to eat, but such a taste delight 🙂

    • My sister loved those dipped cones, too! I was more of a purist and I wanted to eat slowly and make it last. You couldn’t eat those dipped ones slowly or you’d be wearing most of the ice cream!

  9. Sure it is.. And watermelons too… Here in Singapore we have this sweet dessert.. Is made with shaved ice and served with sweet syrup… Yummiest in the hot days.. 🙂

  10. My that is one jummy photo! My favorite summer foods?? Little new potatoes, in a nice salad. And soft fruit with aniseed cream. and juicy watermelons. ohoh, I better stop, the list will become endless!

    • You like healthier foods than I do! I mean, I like healthy foods but I tend to crave things like ice cream. Maybe I yearn for it because I don’t eat it every day or even every week but watermelon and salad are more commonplace in my diet during the summer. I’m really looking forward to corn on the cob, though . . .

  11. Corn on the cob … almost every day from May through September (September is still warm in central Oregon).

    But my all-time favorite … ice-cold raw oysters with lots of lemon juice and more Tabasco sauce than anyone has a right to consume. Gulped down with an equally icy-cold pale ale.


    • Our season for corn on the cob is shorter but we also eat it almost every day while we can! And I’m not big on the oysters but the icy-cold ale sounds good!

  12. What a beauty. How i wish i could lick and taste a flavour a day, after all they are all good. Thanks for making me yearn for ice cream at midnight!!!

  13. I love reading about your childhood memories! Here in California, we don’t have roadside stands; we have Fosters Freeze which has vanilla and chocolate soft serve all year. My mother would stop there after school with a carload of kids as a treat before our catechism class. At that time a cone cost a dime, and now it’s over a dollar.
    My favorite way to eat soft ice cream in the summer is bringing home a carton that has melted just enough by the time I get it home, and then enjoying those luscious first spoonfuls at the top.

    • I wonder, if soft serve was available here all year, if I’d still think it was such a big deal. It might be that the seasonal nature is part of the appeal. I used to live about a block from a Dairy Queen and rarely went there! Your method of eating ice cream from the carton sounds pretty appealing, too!

  14. I want to have a bite of one of those. And thumbs up for the cones. But it should be the cookie ones. Not the ones that are named cookie, but taste like plastic.

    • I’ve never met an ice cream cone I didn’t like . . . but none have tasted like plastic either. Maybe that’s a Dutch thing! 😉 Congrats on your team’s fine finish in the World Cup–I was rooting for them!

  15. I have been craving soft serve like CRAZY lately which is funny because growing up I always preferred hard-packed regular ice cream. But seriously…I need a twist cone so bad!! That close-up picture is killing me!

    • I’m due for a cone, too–I seem to be able to last about a week before the craving gets too strong. And I justify it by telling myself that the stands will all close in September and I’ll be soft-serve-less for MONTHS!

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