Oh, ice cream. Best thing since sliced (Napolitano) bread. Bold statement from a bread loving heart, even eight years into grain-free existence. From Klondike bars in a bowl with Uncle Joe to the impatiently crafted milkshakes of cousin summers in Bay City, little more than scoops from a gallon bucket floating in a glass of red cap milk, but delightfully delicious all the same. The awkward closure of the paper half gallon, drippy orange Push Up Pops on the porch and delighting when you got the “extra” from the milkshake order at Tony’s. Hot fudge brownie sundae’s at Big Boy’s, soft serve swirled high on a cake cone, wondering exactly how long the car ride home from the cabin was, that Uncle Joe could have ice cream available from start to finish.
Near the end of a decade living in Muskegon, it was only through the graduation speech of a native Iowan that I realized the ubiquity of ice cream shops was anything other than normal. In the peak of my racing career, ice cream was as much a part of the training plan as the swim, bike and run intervals. Mint chocolate chip made for great pre-race carb loading and post-race celebration. I fueled my longest ever endurance event with a notable volume of TCBY shivers, resulting in a 9lb6oz podium finish that cued me into the need for closer attention to dosing.
Honest assessment of my habits and hang-ups, I reprioritized my intake, sacrificing the bread I had loved for so long. Recognizing the sneaky forms it could assume that led easily into over-consumption, I drew firmer boundaries for myself in this arena and reserved available carb intake to the glories of ice cream. The styles and quality shifted – local, organic, hand crafted gelato – volume naturally reduced due to richness in flavor and finance.
There have been intervals entirely without ice cream in any form as sugar is eliminated from my diet, for many months at a time. Before the official diagnosis of my abdominal injury as muscular in nature, I attributed it to a visceral response to the resumption of ice cream and slightly devastated to think yet another of my loves could cause me harm.
Reassured, in only the way that a debilitating injury precluding you from your kindred spirit of exercise but releasing you to have another scoop with your daughter can provide, I resumed a relatively balanced level of intake with a recent favorite memory back in December, wandering many miles all across Washington D.C. to try every flavor at all the locations of Dolcezza. And when back in Traverse City, we have journey downtown to Milk & Honey for our “Sunday Tradition.”
This summer, I began to escalate and found myself having mid-day ice cream, in a bowl, at home alone, turning to ice cream in times of stress and overwhelm rather than celebration and pure enjoyment. I decided to take a pause on all things sugar for a bit and reset. Thursday this week, I had a most exciting day with progress in business ventures and an article pending publication – and I wanted to celebrate…but I really didn’t WANT any ice cream. I wanted to want it…but it wasn’t happening. The next day, on a phone call with a friend, I decided to give it a go – and had a bowl, enjoyed more in her company but it seemed quite sweet and almost too much.
Given the long-standing relationship and all that ice cream has given me, I wasn’t ready to just give up. Later that day, my kiddos were opening ice cream bars and offered the last one to me. Coconut Bliss with almonds in the chocolate – took me back to the Klondike bar days with Uncle Joe. We sat outside on our porch step and shared them together. It was delightful.
I realize that the love of ice cream – in all the wide ranges of forms – comes really from the many beautiful memories and experiences it has accompanied. Weekends spent with my beloved aunt and uncle, summertime cousin adventures of my own and with my kids and theirs, special treatment in restaurants with friends, the exhilaration of racing, post-sunset swim refueling and the creation of a brand-new human. While a solo moment with a bowl, on the couch, can bring delight, it is in the sharing with others and the embracing of life’s sweet moments that the love is truly found.
Ice cream can be part of the celebration but is not responsible for my joy – I get to choose that in any situation (and shared a most interesting one last week!). I am free to love ice cream at all levels of consumption and there is no pressure on the relationship. I can expand my view of all those ice cream-filled memories and see it was the love, laughter and connection shared, and not just the Almond Joy Sundaes, that warms my heart with added benefits of glycemic control and brain freeze elimination.
May we taste the sweetness of life’s magical moments whether or not they are served à la mode.