When I was 14-15 years old, for reasons that had to do with my education and the location of my father's employment, I lived with my maternal grandparents, Henry & Carmen Alexis. They lived in a hilly suburb of Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad & Tobago, in a rambling 1-storey house.
Every week for two years, I would be driven to my grandparents' home two hours away from where my parents and sister lived on late Sunday evenings, and then right after school on Fridays, I'd be driven back the two-hour drive to our family home in the small fishing village of Mayaro. Because I spent such a large part of my weeks with my grandparents, I became incredibly close to them -- so close, that when it came to naming our daughter, I wouldn't even entertain the thought of naming her anything other than their surname.
Occasionally, of course, I wouldn't return to Mayaro, and instead, my family would come up to spend the weekend with my grandparents. And on those weekend, my grandparents would delight in taking my sister and me, along with our baby cousin, Jason, on a special outing for ice cream.
I remember in my jaded teenage years being somewhat amused by the whole thing: "We're going out for ice cream!" Grandpa would announce grandly, like we were going to the opera, or something that I deemed far more fancy than ice cream. "And we will be leaving on Saturday afternoon at 2 o'clock sharp, so please be ready." Then at the appointed time, we'd climb into my grandfather's ancient sedan -- a 20-something-year-old beast that rattled with every pothole, and had windows that you had to manually wind up or down with a crank, for heaven's sake -- and off we'd putter to a local ice cream café. The café was really nothing to speak of, and had only a few flavours: vanilla, chocolate or strawberry (I always chose chocolate), rum-raisin and, of course, coconut. The ice cream was delicious -- this was the time before synthetic additives, after all, and save for the strawberries, the ice cream and ingredients were all local and handmade. So the truth is that even though I might have been a bit snobbish each time we headed out, by the time I'd taken that final bite of ice cream, I was really happy that Grandpa took the time to do this for us.
Several weeks ago, I was approached by Marble Slab Creamery to experience their ice creams, specifically because they now offer "unlimited mix-ins" -- as many of their offered ingredients mixed into your chosen flavour of ice cream as you'd like. Since I'm a fan of their ice cream (they include Trinidad as one of their international locations), they source their dairy from local farms and mix the ice cream in their actual stores -- plus, let's be real, my family just loves ice cream in general -- I happily agreed.
And so, on the first fine day of the year in Houston a couple of weeks ago, Marcus, Alex and I headed out to our local store.
Because Alex never met a sweet she didn't like, when she heard that she could have anything she wanted mixed into her ice cream for no additional cost, she went to town: she chose birthday cake ice cream, with the added mix-ins of gummy bears, chocolate chips, and cookie dough.
Girlfriend does not play when it comes to her ice cream.
Marcus was a bit more reasonable: he chose cheesecake- and rum-flavoured ice creams, with coconut and chocolate chip mix-ins.
I'd like to think his choice reflects my Caribbean influence on the man.
As for me, I remain a purist: simply sweet cream ice cream with Oreos added in. Because Oreos, as you know, are milk's favourite cookie.
The ice cream was delicious, of course. But I also had the added bonus of suddenly remembering all those little outings of going out for ice cream with my grandparents, sister and cousin. And as Marcus, Alex and I sat there on the Marble Slab Creamery patio, eating our ice cream that beautiful day, I couldn't help think, really, why don't we do this more often? It seems to me that in this day and age, of Pinterest-perfect birthday parties and beautifully-decorated holidays, we've -- okay, I've -- forgotten about little things like just climbing into the car with the family and going out for ice cream, for no other reason that making the ice cream outing the event itself.
And I suddenly realized that this was a little tradition I really wanted to begin again for Alex, especially in the incredibly hot, humid summers that Houston is known for and will surely arrive soon. Because really, why not?
Anyway, because Marble Slab Creamery is so awesome, as part of this experience they're also allowing me to give away a USD $25 gift card -- which seems particularly appropriate, what with this being Alex's birthday week, the fact that she chose birthday-cake-flavoured ice cream, and so on. So leave a comment with your favourite ice cream flavour, and I'll pick one commenter at random to win the gift card for you to start your own ice cream memories.
I'll announce the winner by updating this post tomorrow, March 5th. One comment per person, please, and as always, good luck, friends.
update, wednesday, march 5:
According to Random.org, the winner of the gift certificate is Sarah, who said: "Any kind of chocolate :) The best ice cream I've ever had was on a family ice cream outing....what a great tradition to start!" Congrats, Sarah! Please keep a lookout in your inbox for an email from me, requesting your snail mail deets.
And thanks to all of you who commented -- looks like I have a ton more flavours to try. :)
Thanks much to Marble Slab Creamery for sponsoring this post, as part of their Direct your Delicious™ Unlimited Mix-Ins campaign. Marble Slab Creamery has a variety of gourmet flavours and mix-in possibilities, and produces their ice cream made with real dairy from local farms, making as many of their products as possible from scratch, including their cones. And Marcus, Alex and I can attest that it's all really, really good.