The other day, I found a small box of strawberry-flavored happiness in the SAVEUR staff freezer, and it brought on a flashback.
It’s Saturday in 1972 and I hear an ice cream truck’s tinny song in the near distance. I ask mom for a quarter and hop on my only mode of transportation: a purple, banana-seated bike with chopper-style handlebars. I pause at the intersection by our house and perk up my ears like a wild animal on the hunt. The sound is on the move again, headed away from me. I pedal after it and just a few blocks down I find the beat-up old Good Humor truck parked on the side of the road, surrounded by kids who had similarly Pavlovian responses to a mobile loudspeaker blasting Turkey in the Straw.
I toss aside my bike and join the crowd, all of us staring at the pictures of ice cream on the side of the truck as we wait for our turn to order. Sidewalk Sundaes are bigger and last longer, I think to myself, but it’s just dumb chocolate. Strawberry Shortcake bars, on the other hand, disappear quickly, but have that sweet strawberry goo in the middle and fruity, cake-like sprinkles all along the outside. By the time the ice cream man takes his quarter from my sweaty palm I feel resolute in my decision: “Strawberry Shortcake, please,” I say firmly. And easy as that, the bar is in my hand.
Back in the staff kitchen, I ate two Strawberry Shortcake bars, back to back, while standing rapt in front of the freezer. They’re as good as ever: a strange, wonderful hybrid, part cake, part ice cream, part goo. Like all things from childhood, they’re smaller than I remember — but no doubt it’s me who’s gotten bigger.