Let’s get this straight from the start: it’s not about the ice cream, just about those annoying jangling vans. I love ice cream and I come from excellent ice cream pedigree. My Great Great Uncle Albert (aka “the greatest”) used to regale us kids in the north of England with vague stories of his war years, which all ended up with him coming home and eating a “bucket of ice cream.” He could think of nothing more impressive and, in truth, there was little that would have impressed us more. It’s not officially vacation in our family until the first ice cream has been consumed — whether fall, spring, summer, or winter.
There was a time when the tinny tune of a nearby ice cream truck would have thrown my mouth into a spasm of Pavlovian salivation. But now, as a parent, the noise is as likely to fill me with a rage that is all the more brutal because it is born of betrayal. Instead of delivering sunny childhood goodness at snack time, these armored vehicles of consumer capitalism roll in to belch diesel fumes over the playground and tempt children who are playing healthfully outside into the desire for frozen fat laced with lactic offal and high fructose corn syrup.
Of course, when the trucks first ventured out this year (refitted from their winter jobs as burger vendors?) the temptation was less. First because it was just cooler then, and eating ice cream while wearing a hoodie always feels inauthentic. Second, it was mitigated over Passover when the list of acceptably kosher items offered by the weary, care-little drivers was diminishingly small.
Maybe it’s because I have girls whose metabolism is not automatically set to infinite like their male friends so I’m worried about them spoiling their appetite. Maybe it’s because since I was a toddler tasty, high-quality ice-cream has become widely available so the van purveyed fare looks unappealing. Maybe it’s just that as a father I am descending inevitably into grump-old mandom. Whatever the reasons: viva mint choc chip! And down with the ice cream trucks!
Dan Friedman is the Arts and Culture editor at the Forward.