Food for Thought: I Scream for Ice Cream!

 I Scream                                                                                                                                              You Scream                                                                                                                                          We all Scream                                                                                                                                    For ICE CREAM!”

Like most little children I really loved eating ice cream. My all-time favorite flavors were Rocky Road and Chocolate Chip, I liked both equally, but when I was a kid I was only allowed to have a single cone or serving, so I had to make a choice. It was tough so I used to alternate. When I got a little older my parents started getting me a double cone so I got to have both of my favs! But to tell you the truth I would have been happy with any flavor even plain old Vanilla. Back then the Good Humor ice cream truck used to come around the neighborhoods daily. They usually began their routes in early spring and continued until mid-November. It depended a lot on the weather.  Sometimes it was warm well into December.

In the summer the ice cream man came by around 1pm and then again around 6 or 7 in the evening. It was awesome! I wasn’t able to get an ice cream everyday but my friends and I got them pretty often. Sometimes one of the parents would come out and buy ice cream for all of the kids. It was so cool and at a nickel a pop it was affordable! There was nothing like having a double Popsicle, Push Up, Fudgsicle, orange Creamsicle or Long John on a hot, summer afternoon! When I moved to Azusa the Good Humor Man was replaced by the Tropical Ice Cream Man. A little different assortment of goodies but just as delicious! Those were really the good old days.

Yeah, when I was a kid there was nothing I enjoyed as much as ice cream except maybe candy and soda! I could never get enough and believe me, I have the missing teeth to prove it! My bad habits got me into trouble early and caused me to begin visiting the dentist at around 4 years old. I had bad teeth and the sweets didn’t help any. I even had to have filling on some of my baby teeth! Can you believe that? I’m not proud of it, I just couldn’t resist the sweet stuff.

Back in the day candy was cheap and there was a wide assortment of single items that sold for only a penny! Every market or corner store had a large candy section! My favorite penny candies were Tom’s Peanut Butter logs, Bazooka Bubble Gum, Tootsie Rolls, Red Hot Jaw Breakers, Slow Poke Suckers, Smarties, Sour Apple Balls, Fun Dip and Lik-M-Aid. And Candy bar were only a nickel and much larger than the bars we pay fifty cents for today!  As a kid my favorite candy bars were Abba Zabba, Big Hunk, Look, Turkish Taffy, and Hershey’s Mr. Good Bar. Today I still enjoy a Mr. Good Bar every now and then and Big Hunks when I can find them. Old habits die hard.

I also enjoyed packaged pastries. The Hostess Brand was the most popular. They made a delicious assortment of tasty treats, Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Ho’s,(my favorite)  Sno- Balls, Zingers, and assorted, individual fruit pies, full size cakes and doughnuts. They were all so delicious. Hostess also made Wonder Bread, the sandwich bread that every kid wanted their mom’s to buy. And why not, according to the many Wonder Bread TV commercials, Wonder bread helped build a child’s body 12 different ways. I liked it because it was so soft and tasted great dunked in milk.  For fresh pastries we had the Helm’s man. Like the ice cream man the Helm’s Bakery Man ran a neighborhood route and came by daily. His cache of freshly made breads, cakes, cookies, pies and assorted doughnuts couldn’t be beat! It was a real treat when my mom would takes us out to the Helms truck to get some fresh bread and let us pick out a doughnut. The cream filled eclairs were my favorite. I wish I could have one right about now, with an ice cold glass of milk. That would be incredible!

As for food, hot dogs were always my favorite. Hot dogs, baked beans and potato chips, what could be better. Let me tell you, I never met a hot dog I didn’t like, especially if they were made with all meat, Farmer John Wieners. They were the best!  My mom was a terrific cook. She used to put together some incredible meals, fried chicken, pork chops, roasts, steak and Mexican food. My favorite were her beef and potato tacos, they were awesome and her homemade salsa was delicious!  She always made a mild one for us kids and a hotter one for her and my dad. The hotter one was actually tastier and it didn’t take me long to outgrow the mild sauce and move on up to the hot! Yeah her taco’s really rocked! My wife who is also an outstanding cook and makes some delectable dishes. Her tacos are great! So are her beans and rice. It took some time but eventually she mastered my mom’s salsa. She makes it perfectly and it’s oh so tasty! Now whenever she makes tacos I’m reminded of my mom’s many taco nights. Good memories.

Other food that I enjoyed as a child was prepared by my Grandma Lola. She was the holiday cook. Every Thanks giving she would prepare a feast, turkey, ham and all kinds of side dishes and desserts! I always looked forward to going to her house for Thanksgiving. I preferred the ham over turkey, still do. For Christmas it was the same big spread less the turkey. Instead there was ham and home-made tamales! I was in heaven! Grandma Lola really knew how to prepare a feast!

I remember my grandma’s house was the first place I ever had a real steak all to myself! I was probably around eight or nine. As per the usual there were these thick juicy steaks for the adults, hamburgers and hot dogs for the kids. My grandpa heard me complaining to my cousin about having to always eat hot dog and never getting steak except in bite size pieces. The next thing I knew Gramps brings me a plate with this thick, monster size steak on it. It must have been more than an inch thick and so big that it was hanging over the sides of the plate! There was no way I could eat it all myself so my cousin and I shared it. It was the best!  And so began my love for steak.

My other grandma was also a great cook. As a kid I loved eating at her house, we all did. Yeah Pepita made the best homemade flour tortillas. There was nothing like a freshly made warm tortilla smeared with butter or filled with fresh avocado so good. Her rice and beans de joya with butter were the best, and her potato soup was incredible. I still think about her every time I have a flour tortilla and avocado or my wife’s potato soup. Yeah Pepita was a real sweetheart. Eating at her house was like eating at a restaurant. Funny but she used to make all the kids eat the minute we walked in the door, even if we weren’t hungry. She said we’d hurt her feelings if we didn’t eat and none of us wanted to do that, ever.

And while having a snack, pastry, hot dog or home-cooked meal you had to have something to wash it all down with, something like a nice, cold soda maybe? I loved soda. My favorite was Nesbitt’s Orange Soda. My mom told me that when I was little my dad used to put a nipple over the top of the Nesbitt’s bottle and I’d drink it. All I remember is I grew up loving Nesbitt’s. Then at about 12 years old I left orange behind and became a Pepper.

My other favorite drink was something Pepita used to make for us. We called it Grandma’s coffee. She would take a large pan and pour in one cup of black coffee, four cups of milk and a ton of sugar! She’d place it on the stove and slowly bring it to a boil, stirring it the entire time. After it cooled a bit she’d serve it up with a piece of pan Mexicano, or some cookies. My God it was so good! Must have been all that sugar!

After writing this and recalling all the favorite foods and things I used to eat as a child, it’s no wonder I had so many problems with my teeth! Actually I’m surprised I have any teeth left at all!

But it was sure good eating!

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