Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ice cream Tuesday…

Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.
Try it some time
Another blistering day today. 42 degree Celsius which is… I don't even know- hot! in Fahrenheit. Sunny, beautiful but hot.

I was around the house most of the morning trying to get things straight and didn't even get to everything. Scandalous. At about 2:00 I needed a break and went outside. Pretty girls in summer dresses everywhere you looked. A too-bright, shiny glare bouncing off everything that hurt your eyes and made you squint. Lots of people on bicycles, mostly old, hand painted, Soviet-made single speeds, still running after all this time. Some workers laying new asphalt. Why is it that they only do the new roads, the hottest work next to welding, when it is boiling? I understand that they can't do this when there is snow and ice, but still.

So there I was out in the street and I was thinking about what there was to do. I still had too much work to do to go to the beach. It was too hot for a serious walk. I would have gone for a bike ride but of course, there is no bike to ride on. I actually have a friend's bike in the corridor but I still hadn't fixed it yet. I still haven't got to it yet in fact and it is already 8:00. More scandals...

I finally decided I should at least put something in the fridge as long as I was out so I went into the milk shop. Stepping inside, the first thing I noticed was that there was a line all around the shop waiting for ice cream. The thought struck me that this was not only a good idea, but that I had better get in the ice cream line before the town ate up all they had. There was, of course, one flavor. Vanilla. The Milk Store's vanilla is not a bad ice cream and in general I like vanilla. When I finally got to the front of the line, I ordered 600 grams and they gave it to me in a plastic bag. I then asked for some fructose cookies and the counter girl laughed; all that sugar in the ice cream and I was afraid of a real cookie. Tanya and I ate two bowls each with the cookies crumbled over the top.

I told Tanya about the line and said that I didn't know what they were selling but that living in the former USSR has taught me that if you see a line, you should stand in it because it would have to lead to something good. She laughed.

"How many years of my childhood did I stand in the lines? You needed your whole family to wait, did you know this?"

"Well, it must have been nice. Nothing to do, you get to hang around and talk with your friends."

"No, we were always quiet in the lines. We never spoke."

I am sure there is a lot to that last comment but rather getting into subjects like fear of abduction or Siberian archipelagos, I rather started thinking of one of my first Belarusian memories from back in 1997. This was my first trip here to the beautiful and interesting Republic of Belarus and at the time, my eyes were wide open and trying to take in every detail. Anyway, I was remembering one sunny morning when I ate some ice cream from a kiosk up Pervamiska. Of course there was a line there too but I don't remember there being any consternation during the wait. It must have been a Sunday morning and maybe even a holiday because everyone was in their best clothes, visiting with friends and generally enjoying the day off. I had been thinking in that line about which flavor I might like. When I got to the front though I saw that again, just like today in the milk store, they only had one flavor: Mint Chocolate Chip. I don't know that I ever liked Mint chocolate Chip ice cream. Actually, I am not sure whether i liked it or not because I had neven ordered Mint Chocolate Chip. But without question, I would never, ever have even thought of ordering Mint Chocolate Chip. Never.

But you know they only had that one flavor so rather than storming off in a huff, I just went with it and ordered a double cone and sat down with some people to enjoy the view of Proletarian Heights going about their business. And you know, that Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream was pretty good.

Very profound thoughts started rolling around my head in that moment. In America we have Baskin Robbins and their 31 flavors (Don't write to me and tell me they have more because I don't care) and here in the former communist world they had only one. Wow, I thought: Only one flavor! And I started thinking about that trip to Baskin Robbins and all of those flavors and choises. What a terrible moment. I mean, I have nothing at all against the Baskin Robbins people. I am sure they are fine people and good Christians and give to charity and offer jobs to teen agers. But during the act of ordering, think about it, you stand there saying, literally, "I don’t like that, I don't like that, I don't like that…" It is a very negative experience. You see my point? But here at the ice cream kiosk on Pervamiska, you stand in a line waiting for ice cream, which I would think would be a happy wait because there is ice cream at the end of it, and when you get there they ask: Do you want some ice cream? And you say: Yes! See how positive that is? And instead of getting what you personally want, which I am sure has also got to have a touch of loneliness to it, (Wherever you go, there you are) you get what they give you which is kind of like a surprise present! And I am like: Whoa, let's go communist!

I am of course exaggerating.

But actually it was a legitimate thing that this single flavor of ice cream gave to me because really, you can act like you are the biggest ice cream connoisseur in the world, but at the end of a hot, hot, hot day, do you really care what kind of frozen crème and sugar confection you spoon down? No you don't. And don't even say you do. One flavor is ice cream and 31 flavors is egotism.

You are not buying this point are you? Well what do you want from me? This was Tanya's idea. I went to her and said that I didn’t know what to write about and she said "Write about the ice cream and standing in line and feeling like you were in the Soviet Union again." And at the moment, I thought that this was pretty profound idea. Ok, Ok; I don't know anything. But I'll tell you one thing: When I came home with a ½ kilo brick of ice cream in a plastic bag, Tanya just smiled and was happy.

"I like white ice cream, did you know that?" She asked as we were scooping up spoon after spoon. And of course I answered yes. You see how that works as well.

More soon...