I associate ice cream sodas with visits to the dentist.
When I was a kid, my mother used to buy me and my brothers ice cream sodas as a reward for our summer trips to the dentist.
I don't know if the American Dental Association approved of such tactics, but it left a sweet taste for dentistry in my mouth.
Our elixirs were made at the soda fountain of a downtown drug store by older women with big arms. They were clothed in surgical white, right up to their hair nets.
Sitting at the counter, I watched the soda-making procedure with my tongue wagging and my newly polished teeth gleaming.
The women in white would squirt several shots of chocolate syrup into the bottom of the tall glass and add several spoonfuls of milk.
Then, with a few flicks of a long soda spoon, they would stir the mixture together.
No one could stir a soda like those women. At home when I tried to imitate the soda-making procedure of these pros, the milk and syrup would toy with me. Parts of the mixture would blend together, but parts would remain lumpy. The milk and syrup seemed to sense the inexperience at the other end of the spoon.
But when these women were in control of the spoon, the milk and syrup leapt into each other's arms. There was no quarreling. No syrup lumps hiding on the bottom. Instead, the bottom of the soda glass was covered with a smooth, mocha carpet.
The next step varied from white-clad woman to white-clad woman.
Some would put the soda water in the glass first, shooting it in with the force of a bullet. Again, no matter how often I tried to get my liquid to imitate that shot-of-seltzer procedure, I couldn't get the same effect.
I even tried shaking a bottle of soda, then holding it upside down over the glass. This resulted in much spilling, but not much fizzing.
Once the glass was bubbling with seltzer, the scoops of vanilla ice cream, extracted from deep ice cream tubs, would be added.
Some of the women would reverse the procedure, putting the scoops in the glass first, then the seltzer.
Sodas made either way tasted the same. But I preferred sodas made with the scoop-then-seltzer method. Watching it filled me with wonder. As those scoops of ice cream took flight, propelled to the glass by the seltzer, a magical, what-me-worry feeling came over me. It was summer, the visit to the dentist was over. Life was good.
Finally the whipped cream, real whipped cream from a shiny stainless steel squirter kept in a refrigerated bin, would be squirted on top of the soda.
Then came the cherry, and a long straw. And I reveled in the delicious reward for dental hygiene.
The other day in my kitchen I made some ice cream sodas. They were "adult" ice cream sodas, made with strong coffee, cream and coffee ice cream.
They were quite good, and came from "The Complete Coffee Book," by Sara Perry (Chronicle Books, $13) a paperback book filled with coffee recipes.
These coffee sodas were cool comfort on a hot afternoon. But after I finished mine, I felt wanton.
I had enjoyed an illicit pleasure, without going to the dentist. I checked the calendar, saw I had a dental checkup scheduled for a few weeks and felt better. I felt so good that I had another soda.
- Old-fashioned coffee soda Serves 4.
3 cups chilled double strength (4 tablespoons of ground coffee to 6 ounces water) coffee
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
1 cup half-and-half
3/4 cup chilled club soda
4 scoops coffee ice cream
sweetened whipped cream and 4 maraschino cherries fogarnish.
Combine coffee and sugar in large pitcher. Blend in half-and-halfFill 4 soda glasses halfway with coffee mixture.
Add a scoop of ice cream to each glass. Fill to the top with sodaAdd a dollop of whipped cream and top each glass with a cherry.