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Ice cream -- a supreme comfort food

Last weekend I found myself casing the case of ice cream at the grocery store.

I was looking for a flavor to serve with apple pie that evening -- a treat for our dinner guests and us. Perhaps I could find something similar to the cinnamon nutmeg ice cream I had tasted years ago with the warm apple pie served at a restaurant.

But there was no cinnamon nutmeg to be found, and nothing even close to it. But vanilla seemed so, well, vanilla.

Then I saw it. Ben & Jerry's "Limited Batch" American Pie, an apple pie ice cream with apples and pie crust pieces.

Perfect! Then I saw the price -- $3.99 a pint.

I did what any sensible adult would do. I bought two of them.

Ice cream is something we have only occasionally at our house. Nonfat organic vanilla yogurt -- stop yawning, please -- often takes its place. Ice cream -- even lower-fat versions -- is for special meals and occasions. When our daughter was younger and more gullible, I used to tell her that the ice cream truck that rounded our corner nightly during the summer was a music truck -- sort of like a music box on wheels.

And, no, I had absolutely no idea why all those children were running after it, I would shrug casually.

Not that my daughter has been deprived of ice cream. My mother makes it a habit to keep ice cream in her freezer at all times, but only one kind -- Perry's Panda Paws. It has to be the original Panda Paws made with vanilla ice cream. Not the chocolate version. It has little peanut butter cups and fudge in it . . . or so I am told.

Some days while visiting her grandmother, our daughter just opens the freezer to make sure the Panda Paws is in stock. Other days, she asks for a bowl and if it is not 10 minutes before dinner, she usually gets it. She does not like me to dish it out, however. She prefers that her grandmother does it. And I know why.

As a child, I marveled at Neopolitan ice cream. How in the world did they get those three flavors in such neat blocks in one container? I could never decide what flavor to have at any one time. Vanilla? Chocolate? Strawberry?

If my grandmother was in charge, she had the perfect solution: Have a little scoop of all three.

My husband's paternal grandmother also was a big fan of ice cream. The grandchildren could walk into Nanny's apartment any time of the night or day, and she would offer them an ice cream sundae.

My favorite ice cream flavor as a kid was mint chocolate chip. I always ordered it. One time when we went out as a family for ice cream and I was mad at somebody about something, I ordered vanilla.

That'll show them, my 9-year-old brain figured.

Routinely, however, it was mint chocolate chip. Years later, when our own daughter was old enough to choose her ice cream flavor, I had to laugh when she ordered, without pause, mint chocolate chip.

She was born with good taste (the exception being her passion for overly embellished blue jeans).

Yes, I am glad that Ben and Jerry stopped by for dinner the other night. There is nothing like a little splurge now and then. I learned that lesson years ago when I once ordered some sort of mocha drink at a coffee shop, and I requested it be made with decaf coffee and skim milk -- with no whipped cream.

"We call that the 'Why Bother?' " said the guy behind the counter.

OK, maybe just a dollop of whipped cream.


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