“If you were an ice cream flavor, which would you be and why?”
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Rye Brook, NY
“Kung Kung, it’s so hot,” Twelve-year-old me says, complaining to my grandpa about the sweltering Indonesian heat. He chuckles, his enlarged thyroid visibly bobbing. “Mau es?” Do you want ice cream? “Iya!” Yes! My sister and I yell collectively, excited. We climb on his motorcycle as he drives down an alley. Soon, we arrive at the nearest supermarket, where my sister and I dash to the ice cream aisle. There, we find the classic Indonesian ice cream flavor: durian, a fruit native to Indonesia. Happily sated, I pay little mind to my grandpa’s enlarged thyroid, and what it means for his health. I had known that he had been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism for a while now, but my twelve-year-old mind didn’t want to dawdle on the reality of life; she would much rather enjoy the memories with her grandpa while she still could. In Indonesia, the fruit durian is notorious for its stinky smell, but is still enjoyed by millions for its sweet yet bitter taste. Like durian, life has its sweet and sour moments. But through the mountains and valleys, family is the one constant in life. They are there to cheer with us when we hit a sweet spot and smile; they are there to cry with us when we hit a sour spot and wince from the bitterness filling our mouths. They are there to make us laugh and smile, but also to remind us to appreciate life while it lasts.
In Arkansas, we have a local ice cream shop that serves blueberry cornbread ice cream every fall. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. I did say blueberry cornbread ice cream. The sweet treat has this electric purple A Phin filter clangs against a glass, a kettle hisses and steams, and the conspicuous perfume of ground coffee diffuses as tar-like liquid extracts into a pool of condensed milk. Much like its brewing ritual, there’s a complex nature to Vietnamese coffee.Its reputation is subjective: often touted as too strong for the western palate, but cloyingly sweet for those who take their coffee black.So perhaps its most universally agreeable form comes from turning it into an ice cream flavor. Its characteristic bitterness is then balanced out by added sugar and dairy, becoming far more palatable to the general public, while still feeling familiar to Vietnamese tastes.As a second-generation American, I grew up battling the concept of my Asian identity. Within white suburbia, I often tried to detach from the stinky Vietnamese foods and the discordant, guttural sounds of the language. But as I joined more Asian communities and met my family overseas, I experienced a sense of belonging, even with losing fluency in my mother tongue and growing out of my parents’ Buddhist practices. Seeing others of the Asian diaspora embrace my culture finally helped me do the same throughout my adolescence.Vietnamese coffee ice cream represents the cultural purgatory that I constantly exist in. It is 18 years of harmonizing all the aspects of my life into one, rather than assimilating to either culture. And I aspire to continue leaving my tracks in uncharted territory, while paying tribute to my Vietnamese origins..
In Arkansas, we have a local ice cream shop that serves blueberry cornbread ice cream every fall. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. I did say blueberry cornbread ice cream. The sweet treat has this electric purple hue with little crumbly yellow pieces breaking the surface. Blueberry swirls dance across the exterior mimicking a Van Gogh painting. Its appearance is equally surprising as it is enticing. Customers will be drawn in by the distinctive exterior, but they will be unsure about whether they should dare try such an odd flavor. Those who do have the courage or enough curiosity taste it, are surprised by the sweetness of the cakey cornbread and the acidic bite of the blueberries. I too have an eccentric look. Colors, textures, and patterns embody every article of my clothing. I appreciate the illogical beauty, complexity, and whimsy my wardrobe holds. My sense of style and my words are delivered with a flair and intention. Boldness is my personal strength. People take notice of me, but they are not always willing to take the effort to know me. Those who have dared try me have been the most caring and strangest group of people I have ever known. Maybe I am not a popular ice cream, like cookie dough, with a line of people waiting for me. That is okay. I have a group of loyal adventurous friends who are always excited for some blueberry ice cream.
It had been a rough day at work. Screaming kids, angry customers, and exhausted employees. By closing time came around, everyone was ready to go home, just to come back the next morning. You dismiss your employees, grab the last drawer and head to your office to count it. It’s a couple dollars off, like always. A sigh escapes your body as you place the money in the safe. You try your best to believe it will get better, but as the days wear on, it becomes more like a distant dream than a future reality. You lock up and climb into your small car. It takes a minute to start, and the music plays quietly. After driving a couple miles, you finally pull into your driveway. The house is dark, but a dim light dances off the walls through the living room window. You fumble with your keys for a moment, and quietly swing the door open. There they are. Your only child and the family dog are fast asleep on the couch. Your significant other had just stood up to meet you at the door. As you both embrace, all of your stress and worries melt away. You finally feel okay, in that moment. Sitting on the couch together, you realize life is like Rocky Road ice cream. Although you aren’t a fan of the rocky parts of life, the smooth parts at the end of the day make it all worth it.
New York, NY
Cookies and cream is a versatile flavor, satisfying a spectrum of varying taste palettes. The constant ongoing debate between chocolate and vanilla lovers dissipates at the first spoonful of cookies and cream ice cream. Chocolate lovers are satisfied by the enticing taste of the decadent Oreo cookie chunks dispersed among the ice cream, and vanilla lovers are gratified by the creamy, slippery sensation of the vanilla ice cream sliding down their throats. The combination of the crunchy Oreo clusters and the viscous, refreshing ice cream base serve as the perfect balance of texture for all ice cream lovers.
Not too bland, not too rich, not too crunchy, and not too smooth, cookies and cream ice cream is truly the ice cream flavor for all. Friendly and talkative, priding myself with the ability to carry a conversation with almost anyone in a room, cookies and cream is the ice cream flavor that I most identify with. Open-minded and easily adaptable, I, like cookies and cream, love meeting new people and learning about and appealing to their various likes and dislikes.
Cookies and cream is a social flavor, a floater flavor, not tied down to one specific ice cream genre, always amiably drifting in and out of different sects. It’s a widely-loved flavor, favored by ice cream critiques of all different standards. Cookies and cream brings people together, always the one to volunteer a compromise to a problem or a solution to a squabble. Cookies and cream is comfort and security.
Distant but tender memories come to mind when I think of ice cream; the sweet afternoon ice cream trip was our family’s refuge on a hot weekend.
My little brother and I would jabber away our anticipation for the cooling delight; our imaginations running wild as we talked about our dream of an endless ice cream fountain gushing out our favorite ice cream, with occasional gummy bears and chocolate bites spewing forth.
I giggle with the realization that the dream never got old. Just like my favorite vanilla bean ice cream. It’s been my first choice ever since I was a little girl and even now as a twenty-some year old. And guess what? I never realized how similar I was to good ol’ vanilla bean, until now.
Some would call it plain. I like to use the word simple. It doesn’t crave attention, with bold fruity bursts or fudge shots. It doesn’t intimidate the common onlooker with too much color, or shock the curious sampler with too much flavor. It politely announces itself and greets your taste buds with a warm hug, melting straight into your heart. Its humble nature doesn’t mind being paired up with chocolate chips, rainbow sprinkles, brownie bits, or even share a spot with pumpkin pie. It’ll even take the plunge for you just to make the perfect root beer float. Vanilla bean doesn’t put on a show with lavish shams or concern itself with external appeal; it is straightforward, effortless, and always delectable!
Condensed milk, cocoa, cream, and vanilla simmer into a genial blend against the tar background of the saucepan. The mixture soon spills into the ice cream maker alongside a handful of almonds and a sizable portion of marshmallows.
As a reward for my culinary efforts, rocky road ice cream soon materializes in front of me. As I greedily attack the frozen creation, my younger sister is momentarily distracted by the white peeking out of the chocolate mounds.
“Are those marshmallow and almonds?” she asks inquisitively.
I nod my head in affirmation.
“Hmm … you know, you are just like your ice cream,” she muses.
“Go on,” I encourage, amused.
“Well, some people may think you’re kind of plain — nice, friendly, familiar. The kind of person people turn to for comfort, like the chocolate part of the ice cream. But then your quirks emerge. The marshmallows showcase your gooey, romantic side. Genuinely sweet, but sensitive, and easily impacted by those around you. Then, there’s the almond side of you. You’re dependable and shrewdly intelligent. You’re healthy for those around you — you restore the logic when we become frustrated by our problems. Some people don’t like you because they are scared of anything unique and interesting, but those closest to you can think of no better combination. Like the name suggests, it’s never boring with you in our lives.”
I laugh at my sister’s offhand wisdom and hug her as we continue to contentedly savor our homemade ice cream.
Woodland Hills, CA
I was rainbow sherbet. Pretty, but lonely. No one showed much interest in me. I tried on some toppings, but coconut, brownie pieces, and candy-coated nuts clashed with me. So I surrendered to my place behind the mint chocolate chip and the butter pecan. I let them have the glory. I’d been passed by so many times, I started to feel comfortable in the back of the freezer as I was pushed further into the corner to make room for the flavor of the month. I figured it would go on like that until someone cleaned out the freezer. They would be surprised to realize I’d even been in there at all. It didn’t happen like that though.
When they were sick they found me. They recognized and appreciated I was cool and comforting. My sweet simplicity was soothing, familiar and welcomed. I wasn’t trying to prove anything with loads of ingredients. I just wanted to help. I finally realized my value. I’m honest, straightforward, reliable, resilient, loyal, easy to work with, and the one you reach for in a crisis. Sometimes I get my hopes up that I’ll be someone’s first choice and feel disappointed when I’m not. But mostly I’ve accepted that having brownie pieces and coconut isn’t who I am. I don’t need to mask who I am. I am unapologetic. I am rainbow sherbet.
“The last step before we can hire you is a personality test,” the ice cream employment manager informed me. “We need to make sure you aren’t a troublemaker. The test also helps us determine which job in our company is best for you.”I expected the manager to hand me a survey to complete. Instead, he wheeled over a machine that looked like a salon hair dryer, motioning for me to sit underneath it.
The hair dryer emitted heat, but there was no air. “It’s scanning your brain to read your personality,” the manager explained. I felt like a lab rat.After several minutes, I heard the noise of a printer, and then the brain scan machine spoke.
“The ice cream personality flavor of this applicant is pumpkin spice,” the machine reported like a proud chef displaying a bowl of his ice cream to customers. “Very detail oriented, as shown by the exact proportions of spices required for this flavor. A perfectionist who is eager to please. Few ice creams are as flawlessly smooth and creamy as pumpkin spice. Perfect for the calibration and measuring department, where precision is a must.”
A pause. I imagined the machine clearing its throat. “Agreeably smooth, yet unsuitable for customer work because she often stays in her shell. Introverted. Melts slowly. Takes longer than most to warm up to others. Despite weaknesses, hiring recommended. Overall, a unique flavor.”
The manager smiled at me. “You’re hired,” he declared.
Only one flavor of ice cream best describes me.It’s scarce and uncommon; unlikely heard of or seen.Very unique in its color and labeled that name, so bold and shapely it reels without shame.This fruits outer skin needn’t be removed.It is delicate and soft and may be consumed.With insides emblazoned with red and yellow, this luscious produce is perfect and mellow.And after you thought your indulgence was done, there’s a surprise in the middle that can be some fun.This wrinkly seed holds a future inside.Plant and nourish it as time dances by.If you water and pamper with relentless love, that seed will grow to the skies above.Amazing in itself, this fruit is much like our race: Flourishing and growing with each beautiful face.Getting bumped and bruised in the process of life, but aiming to please as it would suffice.So if you ever ask what flavor is mine, I’ll say: “Life is just peachy and the ice cream is divine.”
We walk, hand in hand, through the park as I silently savor my ice cream cone. Without reason, we take a seat on a bench, overlooking the peaceful lake, and take in the serenity that surrounds us. He looks at me. “I guess it really is true: you are what you eat.” “I’m ice cream?” I flash him a puzzled look. “Yes, my love, but more specifically: a vanilla ice cream cone.” I maintain my look of confusion, and he continues, “At first glance, you seem so simple, and this simplicity never fails to make me smile. You remind me what it feels like to be a kid again, young and carefree.” A smile creeps across my face as he talks, and I anxiously await more. “It takes a brave soul to really dive in and discover how complex you really are, because,” he states very matter-of-factly, “you are blocked by a crunchy waffle cone exterior.” A giggle escapes my lips at his analogy. “But, once you crack past that, you can really start to enjoy everything you have to offer. There is the occasional vanilla bean which is a pleasant surprise.” He looks me in the eyes, “You are always full of surprises, my dear. “ “And more importantly than all that, I take one look at you and I feel joy. You are, and will always be, my home.” It is with those words that I, very much like a vanilla ice cream cone, melt into his hands.
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