He was grateful for the free ice cream — who wouldn’t be? — but Alec Mark sneered at those little four-ounce cups at the Miami Children’s Museum with all the might his 6-year-old soul could muster.
“It’s not very much,” he bragged. “I eat ice cream every day. For breakfast. A whole gallon.”
“Sure he does,” said his mother Natalie, rolling her eyes and wondering if she would survive the madness and gluttony of National Ice Cream Day, which at that point still had another 11 hours before before every kid in America was safely slumped in a sugar stupor.
There was free or discounted ice cream to be had all over South Florida Sunday as the nation celebrated an annual descent into frozen voracity first proclaimed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984.
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There were ice-cream cones, ice-cream sandwiches and ice-cream cakes being consumed in abundance. And, of course, the closely related beer milk shake, which is an actual thing, invented by the Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck in his novel 1945 “Cannery Row.” (He praised it as tasting “like stale beer and milk.” World War II was rough, people.)
The beer milk shakes were selling like hot cakes (sly way to work in a forlorn reminder that National Pancake Day is not until March 7) over at Red Robin Gourmet Hamburgers in The Falls, which sells them in two flavors — the Irish stout Guinness and the Belgian wheat beer Blue Moon.
“Actually, it doesn’t have to be National Ice Cream Day for these things to sell,” confided a Red Robin bartender. “People order them a lot, all the time.”
In the insanely divided America of 2017, it should be noted that ice-cream mania, for better or for worse, is historically rooted in the Republican Party. Before Reagan, President James Madison’s wife Dolley was the first to serve ice cream at a presidential inauguration, and President Thomas Jefferson is the first person in America known to have produced a written recipe for vanilla ice cream. (He stole it from the French, but we sent them Jerry Lewis movies in return, so everything’s square.)
But the kids at the Miami Children’s Museum were in a bipartisan frenzy for ice cream, attacking the 60 free gallons provided by the Florida Dairy Farmers association.
They didn’t just gobble up the chocolate and vanilla. They ate carton after carton of a bright blue ice cream (alleged flavor: cookies and cream) that looked like an organic product from the galaxy Zork-11. And then they even ate — really — avocado ice cream, whipped up right there on the spot by Miami chef Chris Valdes.
Though it wasn’t necessarily an easy sell, even when Valdes gave it his best pitch: “It’s really healthy and it contains a lot of fats that are good for you!” (It turns out 5-year-olds aren’t as concerned about their cholesterol as you might expect.) When he challenged 6-year-old Gabriela Tunnermann of Miami to take a bite, it touched off a war between her polite little heart and her brain, which sternly warned her that combining honey, chocolate, cream and avocado was an unnatural affront to human decency.
“No,” Gabriela said, shaking her head gently.
“Please?!!” cajoled Valdes. Sucking in a deep breath, with a look that said she knew it might be her last, Gabriela took a tiny nibble.
“See, it was good, wasn’t it?” Valdes asked. Gabriela nodded yes, but looked as if she’d just bit the head off a rattlesnake. She handed the cone to her mother, Keyla, and headed back to the chocolate. But wait! A few minutes later, Gabriela was back, asking for the return of her cone. She ate the rest of it, smiling all the way.
“I think it just took her a minute to get used to it,” Gabriela’s mom said. “I was surprised she would even try it — I don’t think she’s ever tasted an avocado before.”
P.S.: Remember Natalie Mark, whose son Mark reported eating a gallon of ice cream for breakfast each day? She was horrified to learn from a reporter that there’s actually a National Eat Ice Cream For Breakfast Day, invented five decades ago on the frozen tundra of Rochester, New York. “Good God, don’t tell Mark that, he’ll think it was invented just for him,” Natalie begged the reporter, who didn’t say a word about it to Mark. Until now.