Our theme for the month of June is “older and wiser.” Writers were asked to write a response to one of their previous pieces. Today, Susannah responds to her September 2020 post, “Ice Cream Zagat.”

One of my first ever posts was a compilation of ice cream shops that I had visited in 2020. That was such a distinct slice of life. I was a young, starry-eyed teacher in my first years of the tumultuous journey called education. 

And the world was so small that year. The pandemic was in its infancy with significant bans still limiting travel and gatherings. My world largely consisted of laying out a blanket on my raggedy front lawn, running an extension cord down my sloping porch, and listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter on my cassette player.

I still prefer my world to be small. The idea of hitting up seven European countries in three weeks sounds exhausting. Whenever I scroll through people’s instagram dump of Europe I can’t help feeling that I wouldn’t be able to really get to know any one place if I traveled all the time. I like my interactions with places to be like my friendships: I need to choose a few of them and get to know them deeply.

I want to know a place like L.M. Montgomery knows Prince Edward Island. The way she describes every shadow and hue of the sky around her characters makes a heart long for that depth of knowing. So here is my tribute to my current quest to deepen my knowledge of place. I have moved my center of gravity east, but I am still attempting to dig in deep. Please enjoy the current state of my East Coast Zagat.

  1. Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Broolyn, NY.

A cute old-timey ice cream shop that my friend Josh and I happened upon when we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge (although it is not convenient to walk to, despite its seemingly convenient proximity to the bridge). A cheesy ice cream truck parked outside? 10/10. A short list of classical flavors? Iconic. Flavor ordered? Smooth, smooth coffee ice cream.

  1. Bellvale Farms Creamery. Warwick, NY.

This recommendation comes straight from the wizened old veteran I rented an Airbnb from last summer. He leaned back on his porch, looked me in the eye, and told me it was the only respectable place to get ice cream in town. It turned out to be this perfect mountainside creamery with a gorgeous sunset vista beyond a split rail fence. A perfect upstate New York postcard.

  1. Sweet Claude’s Ice Cream. Cheshire, CT.

Sweet, Sweet Claude. My old friend nestled right at the end of my favorite long-haul roller skating trails in Connecticut. It’s the perfect cool-down treat. It has some creative ice cream varieties such “Smurf,” “Dough-Si-Dough,” and “Bailey’s Irish Cream.” It has that perfect atmosphere of small-town spirit, run by local teenage cashiers.

  1. Gabel’s Ice Cream. Tannersville, PA.

Although I have never lived in the same state as this ice cream shop, I have gone out of my way to make a stop there multiple times. It looks like it was torn straight out of a fifties advertisement, with an old faded neon sign across the top. The texture of the ice cream is churned right from the very fiber that makes up dreams. Okay, that may have been an exaggeration but wow, it sure is memorable.

  1. Mister Softee Truck. The Heights of Jersey City, NJ.

Please take note of the location of this ice cream truck. These trucks are native to the streets of New York, but this particular truck is my favorite one. It rolls down my street every day in the summer, and it has been run by the same neighborhood man for fifty summers. This year he is giving out t-shirts to commemorate his long service to the community. You won’t want to miss his heartfelt smile to accompany a flawless cherry-dipped cone.

Things change. Homes move, students graduate, and it’s time to pack up your summer camp duffel bag. But the small joys of summer ice cream shops linger on: a beautiful snapshot of the local, scoop after creamy scoop.

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