Monday, July 19, 2010

The Best Ice Cream in the Country

Today we are off for the next location in our R&R adventures – we will be visiting family in Muncie, Indiana. Because of airline issues we are stuck, at the airport, all day. But, I had wanted to blog last night and didn’t get around to it, so what better time than now (yes, the boys are with me, but one is sleeping and the other has his eyes peeled for landing planes). Once we get to Muncie, I will have limited Internet access and am imagining stealing moments at Starbuck’s here and there.

Going to Indiana very much reminds me of the cultural adjustment process. My mom and dad were in their late 20s when they left Muncie for Texas with my brother and I. I was five, my brother had just turned four. My dad had left for our new home a few days before with my brother. My mom and I backed out of my grandparents drive-way in my mom’s Datsun hatchback, tears streaming down all our faces. I was only five, but I remember that chilly January day in 1982 perfectly. I even remember I was wearing a light-blue zip-up sweatshirt (it was hooded, but these were the days before they were called “hoodies”). In retrospect, I think of my mom as having been very brave. The other day she was recalling that people called her an idiot or crazy for moving. For many summers and holidays, Muncie stayed home, but eventually the pull of friends and the familiar in Texas won out. I think my brother and I definitely called Texas home by the time I was ten. My Mimi still refers to Indiana as home when she talks to me even though she knows I have long ceased to consider it such.

One of my earliest memories of identifying as Texan involves Blue Bell Ice Cream. When we first moved to Texas we lived very briefly in Houston, then moved to Austin. I actually grew up in a small town right outside of Austin – Dripping Springs. When we moved there the entire school (K-12) was about 200 students. The 1st-12th grades were in a campus of two buildings and couple of portables. The kindergarten was in a one-room building down the street. The school didn’t have a track (well, there was actually a ring of grass), but it did have a rodeo “arena.” Ag and 4H were by far the most popular activities. Its claim to fame was that Willie lived down the road and his grandkids attended school with us. In fact, he used to come to the football games when I was in elementary school. And, there was an old hardware store where you could buy ice cream and “soda water” in glass bottles. There was only one light and it blinked yellow. The town has long since changed – it is actually a town now. I don’t know it anymore and really don’t have any friends out there.

But, I’m getting side tracked – back to the Blue Bell. All these things remind me of Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. And the “Original” Cookies and Cream. And Homemade Vanilla. Blue Bell is not the healthiest ice cream in the world, but some how, in Texas, it’s the best. I remember walking into that sawdust floored, un-airconditioned hardware store with my mom (we were such outsiders, people actually referred to us as “damn Yankees”) and trying to lick and lick the ice cream before it melted away in the hot Texas heat. Those early days of Blue Bell in Dripping (we drop the “Springs” for convenience sake) made me feel Texan. Especially when we went back to Muncie and we couldn’t get it. It seemed like a tragedy. We would talk about how great it was. No one would believe us that something good could come from Texas. In the eyes of our Hoosier family and friends, we had moved to the most backwards place in the world. And, to this day, I still choke up at the commercials – most of which were like this one.

It’s funny how, in little ways, we repeat ourselves – as parents, children, travelers. I’m working on making sure my boys eat Blue Bell and identify as Texan and here I am, making the trip to Muncie, again. No matter how far we travel, we still wander back to where we feel at home (whether it’s here or there) and return to the food that tastes best (regardless of where we ultimately hang our hats).


  1. Your posts full of Texas love make me nostalgic, and I'm still here!! It's always fun to see one's home through another's eyes. This post reminds me of my own Blue Bell childhood memories. I remember when Cookies n' Cream first came out, and there still isn't another brand that can beat it. My favorite will always be Banana Pudding. When we make the drive from Austin to Houston we go via 290 so we can stop at the scoop shop in Brenham and indulge in the flavors you can't get at HEB.

  2. Guess what? As of this summer, Indiana now has Blue Bell:

    And you're right, it's the best!

  3. loved learning more about you...