Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Teaberry Ice Cream - A Taste of Summer

Growing up in a small Appalachian town in central Pennsylvania during the 60s and early 70s, there were a couple of things that served as proof that the long, cold winter had passed and that we had several months of good weather ahead.

Lots of places had corn on the cob or lemonade, and the smell of suntan lotion was a universal olfactory experience, which for me was frequently followed by the obligatory sprays of Solarcaine to calm the sting sufficiently so that I would eventually drift off to sleep after fruitlessly searching for the cool side of my pillow while the fan ineffectively blew back and forth in my stifling bedroom.

But I had something else that to this day reminds me of summer - teaberry ice cream.

Image via Wikipedia
Teaberrys are small, shrub-grown fruits native to the Northeastern United States. They have an odd wintergreen-minty taste and odor . Most know little of Gaultheria procumbens except that Clark's became somewhat famous in the 1960s for marketing their teaberry chewing gum, which was pink and delicious and probably tasted little like a real teaberry.

Being able to head out to the seasonal ice cream stand by Bland's amusement park to have the first scoop of teaberry ice cream was like a rite of passage. Texas hot dogs and teaberry ice cream meant school was out, a life of leisure was upon me, and I had nothing more to do than scratch mosquito bites, swim and play in the creek (or crick as we pronounced it), and stay out past when the street lights came on. Bicycle rides, fishing at Reservoir Park, sleep-outs - pretty Norman Rockwell when I think about it.

Image by Meg Favreau
It's been ages since I've had teaberry ice cream. I think the last time was in the late 1990s, when I was back home right after my mother died. My wife, born in California, took one taste and made the universal "yuk" face, claiming that it reminded her of Pepto Bismol. Honey, just because something is a garish pink color and tastes of wintergreen doesn't mean it's Pepto Bismol, necessarily.

I know that with the Internet and an American Express card, I could have teaberry ice cream whenever I wanted, but that's not the point. FedEx can't bring the start of summer to my doorstep any more than they can transport me back to the warm recesses of my youth. But it's nice to remember.

Will my kids have something like that to reminisce about when they're approaching fifty? I don't know. But I think I'll ask them.

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