Summer Scoop

I’m not too proud to say it. I was in Rockville, I was having a bad day and I needed an ice cream cone.

I spotted an ice cream place up the street and had a sudden, triumphant vision of myself eating a beautiful ice cream cone with no dripping or mess — not my norm.

The ice cream place is a landmark to me — an ancient-looking, stand-alone building of a design that was common when I was a kid. It sits in Rockville on the east side of Route 355 across from Manakee Street near Montgomery College.

There was an awesome severity to the setting — the combination of endless traffic and the absence of plant-life or even dead weeds to soften the brutal pavement parking lot that surrounds the tiny building like a small ocean. In 100-degree heat, it was reminiscent of a lean-to adjoining an abandoned mine in a mythical desert wasteland.

I ordered a single scoop of pistachio on a sugar cone with chocolate — not colored — jimmies.

You might say, reasonably, that if drips are a concern, I should order the scoop in a dish. But I need the crackly, sweet texture and dark brown-vanilla color of the sugar cone.

You might suggest I ask for a dish with the ice cream cone. But they always upend the cone in the plastic bowl with a little vindictive shove. Upside-down in the dish, it loses its charm.

Except for two employees, the store was empty when I walked in, so I anticipated quick service.

When I ordered, a young woman, name-tagged “Betty,” put a scoop on a cone and then continued to pack little ice cream slugs onto the ball of ice cream already on the cone. An eating disaster in the making.

“That’s okay,” I called. “I don’t want too much.”

She stopped, looked at me, incredulous. Didn’t I want my entire scoop?

Then there was a complication with the jimmies. Betty dumped a tiny ladle of them in a dish and was about to roll the ice cream cone in — when she paused. She carried the dish to show her coworker, “Sue.”

“There’s something else in this dish,” she remarked to her buddy.

I looked at my ice cream cone in her other hand. Drips were forming.

Sue looked into the proffered bowl, narrowed her eyes. “Looks like there were strawberries in there before.”

Betty appeared smug. She evidently felt she had prevented a disaster as serious as contaminating forensic evidence in a police lab.

Together they peered at me on the other side of the counter, checking that I was still behind the crime scene tape.

So Betty stood holding my ice cream cone and waited while Sue took the contaminated bowl (apparently the only bowl in there) shook out the jimmies, washed the bowl, dried it and handed it back. Once again, Betty carefully ladled a tiny scoop of chocolate jimmies into the bowl.

They pile ice cream on, but they count the jimmies out one-by-one.

Betty handed me the soft cone, and I paid. The ice cream was streaming down the sides even before I got out the door into the real heat. Granted, it was an unusual situation — but ice cream cones can be very messy even on good days.

Is there a better way? Should the sugar cone be redesigned with a larger hole to accommodate the ice cream? Shouldn’t at least some of the ice cream start out inside the cone?

For some expert insight into the problem, I contacted a man who is an electrical engineer, and a former ice cream-shop employee. I explained to my husband, John, that I was wondering about the design of the hole in the sugar cone and the issue of the size of the scoop and the consequential melting problem.

“Whoa! Wait a minute!” he said. “Are you asking about the design of the cone, or the size of the scoop, or the temperature of the ice cream?”

“Huh?”

First he established that when he was trained to make ice cream cones, there was never jamming on of additional ice cream slugs.

“We learned to make one 2.5-ounce scoop,” he said with a little engineer smirk.

“Still, the ice cream did not fit into the cone and started running down the sides, right?” I asked.

He paused, marshalling engineer/high school ice-cream-scooper thoughts.

“Before you even go there, I need to explain there is a problem with the structure of the sugar cone. We’d put the ice cream on and they would crack.”

He looked sad. “We were always throwing them away.”

I persisted. “Once you had a sugar cone that did not crack under the stress, did the ice cream go into the cone or did it sit in a big ball on top and start running down the sides?”

“It sat on top. It did not go into the cone.”

“Shouldn’t they redesign sugar cones so the hole in the top is larger?”

John sighed a patient engineer breath. “The sugar cone has been around for many years. It does not require redesign. People like it the way it is.”

He looked at me intently. “You have to eat it properly,” he instructed. “I lick around the outside first.”

“Thanks, Hon.”

Don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that.

I think I’ve come to terms with the drip thing and can let it go now.

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