Soapbox

Ice Cream

Ice Cream
Photo by Lars Ploughman

There are many ways to enjoy Ice Cream.  One way is with complete abandon, with an oblivious rapture that ignores any before or after, just reveling in the moment of the ice cream.  This is a child’s domain, experiencing ice cream without thoughts of calories or exercise, without concern for the ethical treatment of dairy cows, and without disappointment if it doesn’t quite live up to the remembered ecstasy of Frrrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity.

As adults, we sometimes try to recapture that feeling of simple enjoyment, but the best we can do is a sort of forced innocence, only pretending to ourselves that we can enjoy the ice cream without context.  Like reliving a Monty Python skit or visiting a childhood playground, this can be rewarding, but it can never actually be as good as the original experience.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t intentionally forget all that we know.  The punchlines can never again be a surprise, and we no longer really fit in the swings and slides that were bigger than life when we were children.

So, how can we really enjoy ice cream as adults?  Embrace your knowledge, revel in the context, fully accept what brought the ice cream to you.  Ancient man domesticated cows for their milk and chickens for their eggs, they cultivated vanilla beans, sugar cane, coco beans and a huge variety of fruits and nuts, all of this happening long before anyone dreamed of ice cream.  Then someone invented refrigeration, first taking advantage of ice harvesting and insulation in colder climates, then building on thousands of years of metallurgy and fabrication, and taking advantage of the nature of gases to heat up under pressure to make refrigeration available anywhere there is adequate power.  And, of course, that power has it’s own creation story. Finally, there are the actual cows the milk in your ice cream came from, the plants that provided the sugars and flavors, the machines that combine it all into ice cream, the people who help harvest, make, transport and sell you the ice cream.  That is a lot, but it really only scratches the surface.

And finally, there is the ice cream itself.  The culmination of creation, invention and work by plants, animals, machines and people, ice cream is the product of thousands of years of thoughts and ideas, and it exists now only to be eaten, to nourish, and to be enjoyed, every mouthful savored, and then taken into our bodies where we will draw energy from it, and incorporate elements of it in to our very structure.

So, as you take each spoonful, give it the reverence it deserves, recognizing the long, complex chain of life and creation that brought it to you, and feeling the joy the ice cream itself experiences as it fulfills its own purpose, to be eaten, to be enjoyed, and to nourish. And when you finish the bowl, remember the ice cream is not really gone, it has just become a part of you, part of the even longer, more complex chain of life and creation that makes you part of this world.

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