I’m in a tiny ice cream shop in a corner of Allston, down the street from the dingy and outrageously popular bars Boston College kids love. My friend and I are leaning over the glass partition in the middle of the store, where an aproned man is using two slabs of metal to chop strawberries and graham crackers into a pool of condensed milk. His hands move quickly until the puddle in front of him is a pink slurry. “It looks like that thing I did when I was little,” my friend says, “when I used to mush my ice cream around until it turns into soup.” I’m thinking the same thing. I used to take three flavors of Ben & Jerry’s and pat them together with the back of my spoon until the ice cream melted, and all that was left was a brown puddle punctuated with tiny chocolate fish and streaks of marshmallow and caramel. Once it reached that divine, perfect state, I would lift it up with my sticky hands, tilt the bowl at my lips, and drink it like the dregs of a bowl of cereal.
But now, in Hi B3ear Ice Cream Roll, we’re watching childhood in reverse. Instead of melting, the puddle of milk and sugar is freezing on the white-cold slab. As the man pushes the now-homogenous combination around, it freezes until it’s flat enough for him to scrape it into seven ice cream rolls and put into a cup. But it tastes dry and almost too cold to be sweet, like all the flavor has been tortured out of it. The ice cream of the future is round and tasteless.
The ice cream of the past is a few blocks down Commonwealth Ave. At Emack & Bolio’s in Brookline, parents with strollers, teens on first dates, and groups of students line up under the awning for ice cream that’s been around since 1975. It’s served in cones that drip with layers of Rice Krispy treats, and the ice cream tastes cold and sweet, like it’s the summer you turned 9—you’re at the beach and your parents let you run ahead, shoeless, to that ice cream place to ask for a small cookie dough, please, in a cone—and now you’re 21 and the first taste still reminds you of the sun on your back and the sand on your feet. Everything ice cream should be. For $5, you can buy yourself a memory.
But for a couple dollars more, at Newton’s ice cream mainstay, you can buy yourself a better memory. The stuff of ice cream daydreams is at Cabot’s in Newton, where every day of the week sundaes come drenched in marshmallow sauce and dark chocolate, with a side of a Belgian waffle, if your sweet child heart so desires. Frappes—milkshakes, for those of us from anywhere besides Boston—come extra thick and giant thick, with or without malt. This isn’t an organic juice bar, with fancy chia seeds and cold-pressed arugula. No, this is where you go to get Sultan’s Delight, a sundae with four ice cream flavors that’s fit for a king. This is where you go to get destroyed by a crystal bowl of ice cream so big it would make both Ben and Jerry weep with joy.
Let’s make something extremely clear. I’m lactose intolerant. I once sent myself to Health Services for 24 hours during finals because I ate too much Greek yogurt and couldn’t stop throwing up. Ice cream is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. Each sugary spoonful makes me feel alive for just one glimmering moment before my body realizes I have just swallowed poison masked as treat. Sacrifices have been made, for my tastebuds and my health.
The ice cream soup of my childhood is my last pain-free ice cream memory. Last week, I ate just a few bites of the too-cold ice cream rolls and had to ward off stomach pain for the rest of the evening. I don’t regret eating Emack & Bolio’s for dinner this summer, but my body might. Each memory of a gooey spoonful from Cabot’s is spiked with the ensuing pain in my abdomen. We’re an ice cream family, at home in Maryland. Our spoons are bent by the force of teenage boys who couldn’t wait for a carton to thaw. But then my body rebelled. I think it’s trying to tell me I’ve grown out of dripping cones and layered bowls. I’m not listening.
This summer, one of my roommates was a long time employee at White Mountain, that mainstay of BC first dates and study breaks. She came home from work each night with dried ice cream glistening on her arms up to her elbows. Sneakers caked in chocolate. Our freezer was stocked with frozen broccoli and chicken—college girl freezer basics—and a leaning tower of ice cream. Vanilla with peanut butter cups. Chocolate chip cookie dough. At least two specials: apple pie, mint oreo, and always, always cookie monster. She worked almost every day, and by August we had more flavors than Baskin-Robbins.
Sweet, sweet temptation. Here’s some advice, from one lactose-intolerant to the world: Don’t eat half a carton of ice cream before running five miles in August humidity. Don’t inhale Greek yogurt during exams. Don’t drink a milkshake every day. Here’s some more advice: Eat half a carton while watching One Tree Hill with your roommates. Get the biggest sundae at Cabot’s. The summer of being 9 at the beach will end. Stomach aches don’t last forever. Neither does ice cream.
Featured Image by Abby Paulson / Heights Editor