This summer, our twin 16-year-old daughters got their first jobs, working at a soft-serve ice cream stand down the road. I can't mention the name in my column, as it's a national chain, but it rhymes with "Hairy Clean."
At first I was glad that the girls were showing some responsibility and earning their own money. Sure, I have to wait up until midnight most nights to pick them up after closing, but they smell like birthday cake almost all the time, so it evens out. (Before you gag, just look at your nearest family member and imagine them smelling like birthday cake. ... See? Nice!)
The one unexpected and unintended consequence, though, has been that all of us eat a lot more ice cream than the U.S. surgeon general or the first lady might think wise. One would think that working around ice cream for hours, the girls would come home and shy away from anything that even resembled a frozen treat. But they walk in the door, change out of their birthday cake-smelling uniforms and immediately suggest we go back for some ice cream. Intoxicated by the aroma of birthday cake, I usually say yes.
I did not grow up in an ice cream kind of family. My parents had nine kids, and taking all of us out for ice cream would have involved a trip to the bank first. We were instead a "Twin Pop" kind of family. Twin Pops, the official treat of bargain-hunting parents everywhere, were faux Popsicles that came with two sticks that, theoretically, could be split in the middle and shared with someone else. In reality, what happened is that the sibling (usually the older sibling) who cracked the Twin Pop down the middle against the edge of the table always, and usually intentionally, did it in a way that wasn't quite even Stevens, and then "called" the half that was slightly bigger. The younger sibling then pouted and stormed off, saying he would never eat one again and life was unfair. I know this because I shared my Twin Pop with my little brother.
My wife was a little better off. Even though she came from a family with seven kids, every couple of weeks they got to go to a local soft ice cream stand called the "Dipsey Doodle." They didn't eat ice cream with any great regularity, though, and this was a long time ago, before Hairy Clean made inroads into the market.
Our own kids spent much of their younger years in a similar state of deprivation. We probably took them out for ice cream twice a summer, and the rest of the season, they had to eat ice cream from the fridge, no matter how old or suspect it was. They will probably grow up with nightmares of Dad standing over the table barking out, "That is not freezer burn! It's just a little melty! Eat!"
The problem is that as a family, we're now eating ice cream this summer on a regular, almost daily, basis. This is particularly bad because I've been trying for about a year to get in a little bit better shape, running a few times a week, eating fewer desserts, and drinking less beer. (I'm lying about the beer part. Don't judge.)
I started realizing this was a problem when I was getting dressed for work and found that my suit pants seemed to be shrinking. Then one morning, I had to back off one hole on my belt. My wife and daughters don't have the same problem. My wife is a fitness nut, running almost every day, so she can simply run off the calories that come with daily dessert. And my daughters have decided for the summer to give up other foods, living on a diet of sundaes and Blizzards. There's actually something out there called the "Ice Cream Diet" that maintains that you can eat ice cream every day if you watch your overall calories.
I've decided to take a different approach. For the entire summer, I'm going to eat my regular meals (washed down by a fermented malt beverage -- It's not up for discussion) and then follow up with a daily chocolate-dipped cone. I know I may continue to take up more territory as the summer goes along, but I can handle it. I have four more holes left in my belt before I have to go out and buy a new one.
If you have a problem with that, keep it to yourself. Nobody gets between me and dessert. Just ask my little brother.
Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com. First Published June 30, 2012 12:00 AM