We all scream for the ice cream truck
Summertime means the ice cream truck cometh, triggering sugar-high longings among children, along with fond memories for adults . . . our Nancy Giles included:
The coolest song of the Summer is the jingle of your friendly neighborhood ice cream truck.
Giles asked one youngster, "When you hear the bell ring and you know that ice cream truck is nearby, what happens to you?"
"I get really happy and I scream ICE CREAM!!!!" was the self-controlled reply.
Paul DiMarco and his wife, Donna, have been making friends for almost 20 years driving their ice cream trucks, and they have yet to cool on the business.
"You're everybody's friend when you're out there, and everybody likes you," Paul told Giles.
What's his favorite part of the job? "Every day is a different adventure. It's not your typical daily grind of going to an office job and seeing the same people and doing the same thing."
"And let's be honest," added Donna. "Who doesn't like hearing people say they love you when you're delivering the goods?"
But "Ice Cream" author Laura Weiss says the frozen treat hasn't always been available to the Man on the Street.
"Because sugar was phenomenally expensive -- you had to be rich to eat anything made with it," Weiss said. "And the spices that went into ice cream -- there was cinnamon ice cream, there was chocolate, which was new and exotic, there was vanilla -- these were imported, and they were very expensive."
Then in 1920, an Ohio inventor named Harry Burt put a stick into a cheap packaged ice cream bar, and called it a Good Humor bar.
"He came up with the idea to equip a refrigerated truck with ice cream treats, and the first one was this ice cream bar with a stick in it," said Weiss. "At first he had about a dozen [trucks], and he started out in Youngstown, Ohio, and it spread like crazy."
Soon the sweet taste of ice cream was available to everyone.
"The trucks went everywhere," said Weiss. "In the suburbs, in the cities, in neighborhoods rich and poor and in-between -- the ice cream truck was and still is everywhere."
Nearly a century later, a new flavor of ice cream truck is dishing out to today's ice cream lover. Ben Van Leeuwen is co-owner of Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, and he doesn't make just any old ice cream:
"That is coriander seeds," he showed Giles, "and that we use for a new limited edition flavor we're doing which is a curried nut with salted caramel swirl."
Van Leeuwen scoops artisanal ice cream -- meaning they make everything by hand with carefully-sourced ingredients. For example: Piedmont hazelnuts, as opposed to plain hazelnuts. "Those are a special variety of hazelnut that only grow in Piedmont, Italy, and they're our favorites," he said.
And to keep up with the times, they've even started making -- brace your taste buds -- vegan ice cream.
Giles sampled the banana flavor, for which Van Leeuwen roasts organic bananas with a little bit of brown sugar, coconut oil and sea salt. "That's insane," Giles said. "That's actually insane, how good it is."
"And that's vegan. Vegan with five ingredients."
"Then I'm gonna be a vegan," Giles said.
"All right! I'm glad we've converted you," Van Leeuwen said.
That's all well and fine, but sometimes, the classics are all you need.
For more info:
- Paul & Donna DiMarco's Chilly Willy's Ice Cream Trucks
- Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream
- Follow Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream on Twitter (@VLAIC)
- Lexington Candy Shop, New York City
- foodandthings.com (Laura B. Weiss' site)
- "Ice Cream: A Global History" by Laura B. Weiss (University of Chicago Press)
for more features.