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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Icees, Bikes, and Brain Freezes

July 13, 2007

Icees, Bikes, and Brain Freezes

Over the past few weeks my family has been catching up on movies, sometimes seeing two films in one day.

I love movies. As a matter of fact, the two things I love most about owning my own business are— getting to wear whatever I want to work (no neckties, ever), and being able to see a matinee in the middle of the day.

During the summer we bring our children to matinees, and lately, I have devised an effective method that turns the average movie visit into a well-oiled and precise system of which puts us in our seats just as the previews start.

After parking, I go to the ticket counter to purchase tickets. My wife flanks me and— with the kids in tow— heads immediately for the concession stand line. Once I arrive with the tickets, I replace her in line and she and the children find our seats (first row above the walkway in front of the rail). Fast, efficient, effective.

Our concession order is the same every time— a large Diet Coke for me, water for my wife, a small popcorn for the family to share, Milk Duds for me, an orange drink for the girl and a cola-flavored Icee for the boy.

Yesterday, as I was making my way to our seats carrying all of the concession-stand booty, I took a sip of my son’s Icee. I hadn’t had an Icee in years. It was good. I took another sip and another. I was instantly transformed to the hot summers of my youth, riding my Schwinn bicycle around the Hillendale neighborhood of my hometown, Hattiesburg, Miss. I took another sip, this time a bigger and longer one. By the time I reached our seats the Icee was half gone and I had a brain freeze.

My son took one look at his Icee (or what was left of it) and sent me back to the concession stand.

I purchased most of the Icees of my youth at a convenience store called The Minit Mart. It was the junk-food capital of our neighborhood and the central meeting place for both bicycling kids and teenagers with drivers licenses. The Minit Mart was made famous in a Jimmy Buffet song that told a story of the composer and his friends— during their college days at the University of Southern Mississippi— utilizing a five-finger discount with peanut butter and sardines. In the song, the name was changed to “Mini Mart” I assume to protect the not-so innocent.

Icees were a great portable drink. In those days most soft drinks came in glass bottles, not the safest vessels to be drinking while riding a bicycle. An Icee— cold and sweet— was served in a paper cup with a long stroon.

A stroon is a half straw/half spoon that could be used for slurping and spooning in alternate steps. I always felt the stroon was included to prevent brain freeze. If one slowly spoons their Icee into their mouth the chances of a full-scale brain freeze decreases dramatically, though most kids still sucked Icees through a straw, quickly delivering the cool sugary liquid to the stomach, and consequently a burning freeze to the brain.

The brain freeze, sometimes known as an ice cream headache, is a medical phenomenon that, according to my research (read: 10 minutes on Google) has no medical explanation. I never knew anyone who could get through a hot Mississippi summer without contracting at least one severe, but quickly dissipating, case of brain freeze. A fan of Icees would deal with the brain freeze almost every time he or she drank one.

Sno-cones were summer treats, but they always seemed more like ice cream than a beverage. Cokes in the little bottles were good, but only when stationary, and in those days not many days or nights were spent in a stationary position.

As adults we stop doing things that we did daily as kids— rolling in the grass for no reason, running so long and so hard that it took several minutes to regain your breath, and not on a treadmill or stair climber but in the schoolyard and through the woods. We rode bikes and played board games, and tackle football in friend’s front yards, and we drank Icees.

Today a gynecology clinic stands where the Minit Mart did, we don’t roll in the grass for fear of staining our clothes, and bicycles mostly stay parked. We have turned into calorie counters and self-appointed food police. We have traded in our Icees for fruit smoothies and we might just be the lesser for it.

Chocolate Pie

1 cup plus 2 Tbl. Sugar
3 /4 cups Heavy cream
3 /4 cups Buttermilk
3 1 /2 Tbl Cornstarch
Pinch Salt
4 Egg yolks, reserve whites for meringue
3 ounces Semisweet chocolate, high quality
1 Tbl Butter
3 /4 tsp Vanilla
1 (9-inch) Pie Crust, baked

In a small saucepan combine the sugar, heavy cream, buttermilk, cornstarch and salt and whisk until smooth. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, whisking from time to time, allowing the sugar and cornstarch to dissolve and the mixture to thicken (about five minutes). Continue cooking at a low boil for an additional five minutes, whisking constantly.

In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks lightly. Pour 1 /2 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and whisk over the heat until thoroughly combined (about 30 seconds).

Pour mixture into a mixing bowl, and whisk in the chocolate, butter and vanilla. Continue whisking until thoroughly combined (mixture will be very thick). Pour the chocolate batter into the prepared pie crust. Prepare the meringue and spread over the pie and bake at 350 until golden, about 8-10 minutes. Allow pie to cool completely before serving (refrigerate at least four hours). Yield: eight slices


4 Egg whites
6 TBSP Sugar
1 /2 tsp Cream of tartar

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer. When they start to increase in volume, add in the sugar and cream of tartar. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

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