Friends and Ice Cream

This past week I had visits from two long-standing friends. While I was walking to church this morning I started thinking about a particular category of my friends.

They are about two dozen people. Two live in London, one in Dublin, one in Vancouver, one in Melbourne, one in Palmerston North, one in Ngarawhakia, one soon to be in Cambridge and several in Auckland. Some are women, three are men. They run the gamut from straight to gay, from married, to divorced, in partnerships and single, Jewish, Christian and Agnostic, from early 40s to mid 60s. Two I’ve known all my life because they are my first cousins and the most recent friendship was forged in 2007. The thing that sets them apart for me is that it can be years between visits, we correspond through email, phone calls and texts but we don’t see each other often…but when we do, it’s like the last time was yesterday. The conversation picks up as if there has been no time-lapse at all. Their number is one less than it used to be as one died last year, I hadn’t seen her for about eight years but we were still friends and still shared lots and I miss her very much. If I could’ve travelled to the UK and seen her before she died, I would have, but I couldn’t and it was enough to tell her and for her to tell me.

Some have children and I’ve watched them grow and in some cases, marry and have children of their own. We have ‘been there’ for each other through bad times and good times and I’ve shared all the important moments of my life with these people. When I spent time thinking about it I realised how lucky I am to have this circle of forever friends.

Today is the second Sunday of the month and that means it is Trash and Treasure Sunday. I walked to church and kept my focus firmly on the road ahead and the need to get there by 9.20am. In my peripheral vision I could see tables laden with sparkly things I didn’t need. After church and a cup of tea and fellowship, I walked slowly home. I had a look at all the tables in all the sides streets and up both sides of the main street. I bought two things, a 50c key cover that said “Julie’s Key” and a loaf of bread. Every time I picked up something else I reminded myself that there will be many markets in the months ahead, in cities as diverse as Honolulu, Washington D.C, Chicago and Vancouver…many opportunities to buy sparkly things I won’t know I didn’t need until I get home. A dollar spent now is a dollar less to spend in some exotic location.

I’ve made another list of places to visit. Years ago I fell in love in a shop in Leicester Square and that love affair was called, “Truly, Madly, Häagen-Dazs.” It was over the best ice cream in the world. Every teaspoon of that divine ice cream takes me back to those heady days. So I found the USA website for Häagen-Dazs and located the stores in all the cities I’m visiting and made a list in the back of one of my notebooks. Sometimes, when I least expect it, the day will become brighter by one cone, or tub, of exceptional ice cream and I will visit a Häagen-Dazs shop. We don’t have it in New Zealand so it’s an ‘away treat’, a ‘holiday treat’, a shiny, bright memory in my heart.

Häagen-Dazs was the brainchild of Reuben Mattus, a Polish immigrant and small-time ice cream maker in the Bronx. In 1959, he found his business squeezed for shelf space and wildly undersold by larger national brands like Sealtest and Borden. About to go out of business, he decided to risk it all on a high-butterfat, no-additive ice cream. So he created Häagen-Dazs, giving it a name that sounded European, downright Continental, but that, in actuality, had no meaning in any language. But doesn’t Häagen-Dazs sound sophisticated, romantic and elegant? Mattus’s ice cream back then, as now, had very little air pumped into it, lots of butterfat, and used high-quality ingredients to create simple, classic flavours like Rum Raisin and Vanilla Almond. Then, as now, it is the only widely available ice cream made without any artificial or natural stabilizers like guar gum or carrageenan. Remarkably, though Mattus sold the company in 1983 to Pillsbury, Häagen-Dazs remains as true to its roots and its commitment to quality as it was when Mattus owned it.

So, I shall also try Ben and Jerry’s, which also started as a small business and eventually sold out to a multinational, Unilever in 2001, but it is my understanding that they have always used stabilizers and their ice cream is not as light as the genuine masterpiece, the Häagen-Dazs!! In time, I shall report the results of my comparison tests. Tough job, but someone has to do it.

hds 2

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