An open letter to ice cream: A Chicago dad screams at summer’s messiest dessert

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who sees nothing wrong with paying 65 cents for sprinkles.

Dear Ice Cream,

I recall being fond of you, once upon a time. It’s not a stretch, lots of people are crazy about you – your fatty mouthfeel, your buckets of sugar, your 31, nay, infinite flavors.

Then I got old and had a kid, and now we are in a fight. More than in a fight. I’m done with you.

If you want to know why it’s over, look at the two chocolate-stained toddler blouses in my laundry room that I can’t get clean. Look at the carpet near my kid’s cartoon watching chair. Look at said chair. Look in my car. Augustus Gloop could drown in my car. And it’s all because someone thought that the best dessert to give kids in the hot summertime is a half-frozen fat and sugar bomb perched atop a damned CONE. Why not just give my toddler a cup of coffee and gallon of paint balanced on a pencil?

Watching a toddler eat an ice cream cone is like watching your own face in the mirror after age 30. Everything is sliding down towards an inevitable bad end, and any efforts to stop the slide are noble but inadequate. Ice cream has “ice” right in the name, but summer in Chicago is like winter in Chicago only with sweltering heat and road construction instead of polar vortexes and snow plows – so the “ice” part isn’t going to last, but the stickiness – the slouching, spreading stickiness, on tiny hands and faces and arms and legs, isn’t going anywhere. (Full disclosure: I had to wash a pair of baby SHOES today because they were covered in chocolate ice cream.)

Also, and this may seem petty, but I had to pay 65 cents for sprinkles last night. I know I live in Chicago and things aren’t cheap, but if I’m going to pay 65 cents for what was likely 65 sprinkles, (That’s a penny a sprinkle, Mathletes!) I’m just going to start packing my own sprinkles.

Now let’s talk lactose. When I was a kid, I only knew one person who couldn’t drink milk, and it was the token sickly kid who was afraid of bees. Now something has changed in the environment and we are ALL the token sickly kid (and there are nearly no more bees – but I can’t hang that on ice cream), and no one can drink milk anymore. Drinking milk is like watching CBS – evidently it’s cool with millions of people, but I can’t find anyone in my actual life who can stomach it. So when my little girl wants to go to the ice cream parlor, it’s fun for her, but Daddy and Mommy either have to settle for some sort of sad consolation cookie or risk the raging fury of the Digestion Gods.

What did humanity do to you, Ice Cream, that you’ve turned against us and evolved to overcome the enzymes in our guts? Will you someday rise up and take over, leaving the Statue of Liberty sticking out of a beach holding a verdigris waffle cone? Regardless, ice cream is off the menu for this parent, and most of my adult cohorts.

Finally, Ice Cream, I should tell you that you’ve gotten out of control. There is an entire aisle dedicated to you in grocery store. I don’t even know what could fill an entire refrigerated aisle like that, and I refuse to look. How can there possibly be enough Vermont hippies to make enough flavors to take up a 20th of the grocery store? And the scale of your servings in parlors? I think the smallest size available in most corporate places is as big as a dunce cap and filled using a snow shovel. The servings might not be as preposterous in the more boutique places, but the toppings have become increasingly varied and arcane, from every candy bar ever to POP ROCKS (come on, that’s exciting, but disgusting… and loud), and you can now even be dolloped into red velvet cake bowls or onto maple-bacon glazed doughnuts. (And they wonder why Chicagoans are overweight.)

So, Ice Cream, knock it off. Stop being a summertime dessert, stop melting all over my kid, stop being impossible to digest, stop being so omnipresent, oversized, and overly ornate.

We’ll check in again in the fall – hopefully by then you’ll be back to one scoop of three flavors, served in a respectable CUP… and I’ll take a Lactaid before I leave the house.

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