I Scream, You Scream

Photo by Joy BastNow that Indian summer's finally here, let me dispel some myths about ice cream, the only perfect food for hot times like these. First, jamoca almond fudge is not bad for you. In fact, as a dairy product, it's damned important you eat lots of it for healthy bones and all. And, yeah, it has fat in it—a whole bunch of fat, at that—but you need fat in your diet, or real bad things start happening to your organs.

Bones and organs—these are the really important parts of your body. I know. And ice cream keeps them healthy.

Life is too miserable not to enjoy eating triple-fudge crunch on a warm, drowsy evening. And frozen yogurt doesn't cut it; that stuff is crap. The only acceptable substitute for ice cream is sherbet. But only as a substitute. The same goes for gelato.

It used to be so easy to choose ice cream when I was a kid. There was vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, or the combination of the three in something called Neapolitan (I never quite understood that). There was pistachio, rocky road, rainbow sherbet and chocolate chip. Only weirdoes ate anything else.

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There was no Ben & Jerry's, no Hagen-Dazs. Baskin-Robbins seemed exotic. (Pumpkin ice cream? No fucking way!) The rank-and-file ice cream eater in my day went to Thrifty Drug Store.

Unless you grew up before Hagen-Dazs started packing their pints with extra butterfat, I don't know if you can truly understand how very legendary Thrifty ice cream was. It was quite simply the greatest thing on earth. During my preteen summer vacations, I would plan my whole day around a triple scoop of rainbow sherbet at the Thrifty by my old high school—when I got up, where I'd play ball, where I'd end up eating my triple scoop. We were all the same back then.

Being the nostalgic sap I am, I got a hankerin' for Thrifty ice cream a few days back. Problem was there was no Thrifty to be found. Rite Aid bought them out a year or so ago. But on the hope that they might still serve ice cream, I went to one in Fountain Valley where a sign—"We serve award-winning Thrifty ice cream" —was my siren's call.

Award-winning? Hell, I've won an award, so that doesn't mean much. Corporate buyouts usually mean what was good about the place goes to hell. But the old flavor I loved —rainbow sherbet—was still there, as was the funky scoop that spits out pellet-sized chunks of the stuff.

When I was a kid, Thrifty ice cream cost 10 cents for one scoop, 20 cents for two scoops and a quarter for three. Today, let's bump that up by a few hundred percent:my double scoop of rainbow sherbet and lemonade sherbet cost $1.39. Still cheaper than Baskin-Robbins, but, geez, it's clear Alan Fucking Greenspan hasn't been inside a Rite Aid lately.

The rainbow sherbet, though, was just as awesome as ever—tart and slightly creamy. The lemonade sherbet made my mouth pucker. I noticed a new flavor—chocolate malted crunch—that was far maltier than I thought it would be (that is a good thing), and the little crunch balls added a nice texture.

So satisfying, so good. Whereas much of what I enjoyed in my youth has either gone away or turned to crap (hello, Pizza Hut), the Thrifty ice cream in the sterile Rite Aid proved that if you can't go home again, you can certainly stand on the porch and slurp a double butterscotch swirl.

Here's one final thing: I have discovered that it is physically impossible to eat ice cream and be angry at the same time. So I propose that Ben & Jerry's vanilla caramel fudge be served with each meal in the Balkans and at all divorce trials in Santa Monica. Every session of Congress should open with a small bowl of mint chocolate chip. And Pat Buchanan should only eat rocky road. Kosher rocky road.

In the June 1999 Pacific Bell Yellow Pages, there are 18 Rite Aid (formerly Thrifty) Drug Stores listed in Orange County. Chances are you can find one of them.

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