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?