Sunday, July 16, 2017

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

Since today is National Ice Cream Day, I thought to myself: "Self, why not pound out a quick blog about this glorious, wonderful frozen treat that so many of us love?"

"Good idea, self, let's do it!"

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. In my last blog, I indicated that the next blog would be an interview with Chef Ryan Klen. I figured throwing this one in wouldn't hurt. I'm still going to interview Chef Ryan but think of this as a bonus blog. No extra charge.

According to Google, President Ronald Reagan in 1984 proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month and established National Ice Cream Day as the third Sunday in July. I knew there was a reason I voted for him! And history has him down as the "jelly bean" President. Priorities, people, priorities!

Where should I start?
image from Google search

I really, really love ice cream! Comedian Eddie Murphy perfectly illustrates my passion for ice cream in one of his stand-up acts. You can find a YouTube clip of it by clicking here. CAUTION! This clip is NOT kid or work friendly. Please watch/listen to it with discretion. I think it's funny, but he does use, ummm, "colorful language" throughout his act.

Why can't it be a "super food" like kale? I'd gladly trade kale for ice cream any day. Really, who wouldn't, right? And don't even think about making a kale ice cream! If you do, well, we can't be friends. Sorry, but that's just the way it is. Now before I get any letters from the National Kale Coalition, not that I'd care, or read it, I will say that I have nothing against kale itself. It just doesn't rank anywhere close to ice cream, that's all.

I digress.....

Living in Texas most of my life, the climate encouraged ice cream consumption pretty much year round. In South Texas, we have two seasons: Very Hot and Kinda Hot. Our winters are usually a few days in January when the mercury dips to a blustery 50. For the rest of the year, though, we have plenty of opportunities to enjoy that creamy goodness. Growing up, we had both "store-bought" and homemade ice cream to enjoy, as well as our local eateries. 

My earliest memories of homemade ice cream are helping with the hand crank ice cream freezer. We would all take turns cranking the freezer, for hours and days on end until it was ready. At the time, it felt like our shifts were at least twelve hours long, but in reality, the whole process took less than an hour. I wish I had a recording of the sound the inner container made as it rotated against the ice in the outer bucket. 

Just keep cranking, just keep cranking...
image from Google search

We made all varieties of ice cream, with vanilla being the most common. On those special days when we made homemade ice cream, typically during a holiday like July 4th or Memorial Day, we'd also have barbecue or mom's fried chicken or another sumptuous dish. We'd have an extra special treat by having chocolate syrup or other "fixins" to go with our ice cream. There were three huge peach trees in our back yard that produced more peaches than we could eat. We'd freeze a bunch, make all kinds of peach things and give many away. Here's where my "finicky foodie" moniker rings true. I don't care for peaches....at all. The fam took pity on me, though, and always made sure to have plain ice cream for me before they "contaminated" it with peaches. 

About the time I got into high school, we upgraded to an electric ice cream freezer. We'd mix up the ice cream base, add whatever else to it, and plug it in. It would whir away on the patio while we were inside out of the heat. When the ice cream reached the proper consistency, the motor would stop, and it was time to dig in! Before you ask, no I didn't miss cranking by hand. Some of y'all may miss that, and I'm sure there are modern versions of the hand cranked freezers. Have fun, I won't mind. In fact, I'll help you eat it.

Just set it and forget it
image from Google search

Of course, we always had "store-bought" ice cream in the freezer. When I was a wee lad, ice cream came in these rectangular cardboard cartons. It made for efficient storage in the freezer, but if you bought the carton that opened from the small end, it made scooping the final bits of ice cream difficult without tearing the container. Other cartons opened along the long side, which made scooping much easier.

Yes, it used to come like this!
image from Google search

Modern containers have a nice, large lid to access the ice cream, and allow for easy closure. It's no surprise being Texan that my absolute favorite brand is Blue Bell. Based in Brenham, Texas, Blue Bell Ice Cream is my preferred brand, and I will almost always pick them before any other brand. Currently, my favorite flavor from Blue Bell is their Sea Salt Caramel. I love caramel and prefer that as a sundae topping over chocolate. Of course, a combination of both caramel and chocolate on a sundae is even better.

You've GOT to try this flavor
image from Google search


I love their single serving size



Don't get me wrong, though. While Blue Bell is my preferred brand, I will most definitely try other brands, especially if there is a unique flavor that sounds appealing. Ben & Jerry's is well known for their unique flavor combinations. Of their contemporary flavors, the Brownie Batter Core is simply divine! A rich, velvety chocolate core of brownie batter and vanilla ice cream make this a decadent treat. What could be better? What would make my spoon stray from that container to another? Years ago, they had a seasonal flavor called "Festivus." Long since retired, this was a brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with gingerbread cookie crumbles and a ribbon of ginger caramel. When this was available, those around me knew not to even ask for a bite. Nope, no way! I'd happily buy you your own pint, but you weren't gonna touch mine, not even a bit. In fact, step away, you are too close. Just sayin'....

Please, PLEASE bring this flavor back
image from Google search

What if we are out and about, though, and have a sudden craving for ice cream? Oh, come on, don't tell me some of y'all don't have that happen to you. PUH-leeze! Surely you've had something like this happen. You've had a fantastic dinner at your favorite local barbecue place, and as you're driving home, your brain reminds you that since you passed up that slice of apple pie, there's still room for dessert. There's a sign up ahead....Dairy Queen! Fate has decreed this opportunity to indulge in a frozen treat to finish off an evening of good food. 

Dairy Queen, of course, has their own signature items, one of which is called a Blizzard. It's soft serve ice cream with different things mixed in, such as Oreo pieces, coconut, pineapple, depending on the specific profile you are looking for. I mentioned that it is soft serve ice cream, but, and this is an important "but," the final product is thick enough to defy gravity, at least at serving. A proper Blizzard is served to you upside down, to show how thick it is. 

The proper way to serve a Blizzard
image from Google search

I've mentioned before on several blogs about our love of cruising. For ice cream lovers such as my wife and me, cruising provides unlimited opportunities to enjoy it. At least on Carnival, their soft serve ice cream machines are available 24 hours per day. Yes, it's true! You've been singing the night away at the piano bar, and now that it's 3 am, you grab a slice or two (or three, or four, or...) of pizza and finish it off with an ice cream cone. Don't worry, you don't have to limit yourself to a cone. They have bowls available, too.

Yes, please
image from Google search

Your options aren't limited to just soft serve on the Lido Deck, though. The main dining room always has ice cream on the dessert menu along with their daily selections. Sometimes it's a tough choice between a luscious slice of apple pie or ice cream. Easy solution? Just order both! Carnival's signature dessert, also available daily, is their warm chocolate melting cake. It comes with a small side of ice cream, but veteran cruisers know to order this "Mickey Mouse style," which comes with two small servings of ice cream, vanilla if not otherwise specified.

Mickey Mouse style...

Frequently, though, I'll order a couple of scoops of butter pecan ice cream simply because I just don't have room for that rich cake after a large dinner. This is just enough to enjoy without sending me into a food coma for the rest of the evening. Alternately, I'll order the sherbet, which is a pleasant change of pace. 

Butter pecan

or

Sherbet

See what I mean about tough choices? It's hard to pick sometimes, especially after enjoying an appetizer, and hearty entree. Save room for dessert. Yes, good advice, but easier said than done. 

Holland America Line's offering


So, what's your favorite ice cream flavor or brand? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section below. Do you like nuts or other things added to your ice cream? What about chocolate or caramel sauce? What is your best ice cream memory? Do tell! 

Coming up is Chef Ryan's interview and my memory of Hurricane Celia. 

Until then.....

carpe cerevisi