Ice cream. Two words that bring a smile to your face, a tickle in your tummy and a cure for what ails you on a long, hot day.
Though our kids get a summer break, the world and its trials don't. Now, in addition to camp, work, sports, cooking, cleaning, catering and cohabitating, we get an adhesive, smothering, smoggy heat for a couple months.
But have some ice cream at the end of a blistering day, preferably after the little angels have been safely and securely duct-taped in bed, and the universe begins to spin on its axis once more. It will be knocked off-kilter again tomorrow. But for now, there is stillness.
And ice cream.
I recently paid a steep price for a pint of gourmet ice cream at my favorite local store. As the cashier was going over my earnings statement and loan application, I asked what made this brand so expensive. The maker was too cheap to even put labels on the containers, hand writing the flavors on each pint with a Sharpie.
“Dunno,” she said as she circled some figures she thought curious. “But, people drive here from Long Beach to buy this stuff.”
Long Beach? Wow. Must be good then.
And it was. Deliciously unique, as a matter of fact. But I am going to hold off on buying it again until I have a special occasion. Maybe when William and Kate accept my invitation to come over for a barbecue.
One of our family’s summer rituals is to go to Foster's Freeze, get soft-serve delicacies and sit in the back of my truck devouring them before we drive home sticky and self-loathing. You can keep your Cold Stone Creamery. Give me a vanilla dipped cone and 300 napkins, and I don't care who the Republican candidates are.
But for me, two of the greatest words in ice cream lore are also the briefest.
It's It —
the perfect, over-the-counter prescription for frozen dairy product nirvana. Vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies then covered in chocolate. Keep your Cool-A-Coos and your Toll House forgeries. It's It is the original, irreplaceable cookie and cream combination.
Almost non-existent in the Southland until recent years, the It's It was the original San Francisco treat. Sorry Rice-a-Roni. So growing up in Los Angeles, it wasn't a staple in our freezer.
Not until I ventured north for summer vacations with my father did I find out about Northern California’s second best-kept dirty little secret — nuclear-powered marijuana being the first. Which answers the question of what inspired someone to create the It's It.
I have no proof, but the creator of the It’s It must also have had something to do with other benevolent combinations: Oreos and milk, chocolate and peanut butter, the Captain and Tennille.
After returning home from my travels to the nether regions of our state, I felt like Ponce de Leon returning from his explorations trying to convince people that this mysterious, miraculous treasure existed far, far away.
“That's right! On the forest moon of Endor they put ice cream between two oatmeal cookies,” I begged. “Not chocolate chip. I know it sounds crazy, but it works! It really works!”
Ostracized and humiliated, I sat alone at the lunch table reserved for kids with yet undiagnosed nervous disorders and hallucinatory images of friend people.
“I see ice cream…”
But, as with my childhood insistence that the station wagon was merely the beginning of a revolution in family transportation, I stand vindicated. You can now find It's Its at your major supermarkets. Though this saddens me — the mass-marketing of something quaint, joyful, magical and unknown — I'm glad I don't have to drive six hours to get them anymore.
In the end, it doesn't really matter what your favorite ice cream is. Unless, of course, your favorite ice cream is Rocky Road. In which case, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the party.
Maybe it's the ice cream sodas you shared with your grandmother, the metallic, melodious off-key muzak of the ice cream truck blocks away, or the deliciously inexpensive cylindrical stumps of chocolate chip from Thrifty Drug Store your father bought for you while he waited for his cholesterol medication to be refilled.
Whatever it is, enjoy it before it melts. Because life is simply better with ice cream.
PATRICK CANEDAY is author of the book “Crooked Little Birdhouse.” He may be reached on Facebook, at www.patrickcaneday.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.