How to Order the Perfect Cone

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Me eating ice cream at Devon House, Jamaica

I walk into an ice cream shop with two thoughts: 1) What scoop pairs well with chocolate? 2) Do they have waffle cones? At some point in my 27 years, I’ve become a fastidious ice cream eater. I can’t pinpoint when this happened, but I can rationalize it. Better yet, by the time I’m finished, you may never order ice cream the same way again. Here, then, are the Cash Rules for Ordering and Eating Ice Cream (yes, they’re more like guidelines).

  1. I always order two flavors, and one of them is almost always chocolate. If you don’t like chocolate, skip to step two- this step is not for you.

    Chocolate goes well with almost all other ice cream flavors. Vanilla? Duh. Blood orange? A combination I salivate over like a Pavlovian dog when memories of cobblestone and cranberry colored citrus creep into my cranium. Cinnamon? Never question the power that cinnamon and chocolate combined wield.

    The fact remains, ice cream flavors are a reflection of what we eat for desserts, so you won’t find kale and quinoa ice cream stocked at your local creamery. Furthermore, chocolate is one of the most common dessert ingredients, and clearly the best. What else can take a frozen banana from “why?” to “why do I not eat this every night?” What other food comes from a magical plant that offers antioxidants, instant pleasure, and the release of dopamine into the bloodsteam, scientifically proving its toe-curling, eye-closing, beyond-articulated-speech powers?

  2. So I’ve ordered my scoop of chocolate. You may think two flavors is overkill, but if you’re already getting chocolate (and if you’re not, go back and reread step one), you need to get an exploratory flavor. Maybe you’re in Bali, and they have dragon fruit ice cream, and you don’t think you could get that elsewhere. Maybe you’re really in the mood for citrus. Maybe you have no idea of what you want. Since we already know it will taste good with chocolate, think about what flavors you’re in the mood for, what’s common and/or tasty locally, and what the shop specializes in. Triangulate your flavor mood with local offerings and store specialties, and you’ve found your second flavor!
  3. Order waffle cone, if available. It’s less shitty-sugar tasting and has a snappier bite-crunch than sugar cones. Who cares if it costs more? You’re already spending more than one would want on flavored frozen cow’s breast milk.

    Also, if you’re thinking of ordering a bowl, just don’t. Ice cream is a dessert for the mature, for the young, and all ages in between. You don’t need to use a spoon just to showcase your refined motor skills. Real ice cream eaters order a cone. Forget the bowl, embrace the cone! (If traveling in a vehicle, this becomes more acceptable, as ice cream in your lap is worse than ice cream in a bowl.)

  4. LICK, don’t bite! I’ll never understand why some people bite their ice cream instead of licking it. When I lick it, each flavor spreads across my tongue, sweeping from the sweet buds to the tangy; I slowly embrace the creamy, cold concoction cooling my tongue. If you bite, you get ice cream all over your face, feel stabbing waves of icy pain in your teeth, and most sadly, the ice cream is gone more quickly. So lick!
  5. Enjoy! You’ve come a long way, so savor the most flavor diverse dessert in the world!

As a treat, I leave you with the most unforgettable cones I’ve licked and lapped to completion. Sweet dreams truly are made of these:

  • Blood orange and dark chocolate gelato, Chiaso, Italy
  • Cinnamon OR dragon fruit, Ubud, Bali (but NOT together; order with chocolate! My mouth was a little too fiery after eating a cinnamon/dragon fruit combo…)
  • Any creamy goodness, with chocolate, from Annapolis Ice Cream Company, Annapolis, Maryland. I’ve had the opportunity to try their cones many a time so maybe it’s local pride, but honestly, this shit is goooood.
  • Rum raisin or Devon Stout, Devon House, Kingston, Jamaica. Jamaican alcohol + Ice cream = DUH. Order it.
  • Absolutely any flavors you come across in Sicily. I am not exaggerating when I say most days I spent there involved two trips to a gelato shop, sometimes three. There’s a reason for it. Go, eat, and conquer!

Starry Night

I wonder what Van Gogh would have thought about seeing his Starry Night on the insides of umbrellas, twinkling on the wall above college frat parties, and hidden underneath plates at dinner. Would he have picked that painting to canvas the world?

starry night

Van Gogh’s The Starry Night

Standing in front of said masterpiece at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, I walked as close as possible to the painting, looking at the meaty, brusque brushstrokes, wavy trees and sky, and fairy tale village cradled in the hills below. The many blues calmed me as the yellow stars popped out, a macaroni and cheese colored moon promising serenity and hope.

The little village, nestled beneath the light-filled expanse of night sky, captured my attention. What were the villagers doing? Had this always been their home? How did they know that it was the right home for them?

A few years later…

I arrived in Port Morant, Jamaica last Sunday. My host mom, Herma told me they were going out to Morant Bay and Seaforth; would I like to join?

On the pot hole filled, narrow road, cars and trucks zoomed toward us, letting us know of their presence just around the corner with many a loud, “HOOOONK!” There weren’t any seat belts in the back seat- I think I checked five or six times- instead, I maintained a death grip on the passenger door handle.

As we sped down the road, I stretched my head and neck out the window, observing the fading outlines of mountains, a twilight beach and a purple-streaked sky.

On the way back, I chanced another peek. As I craned my neck upwards, more constellations filled Jamaica’s sky than I had seen in months. I ducked my head back in as a truck passed, only to stick it out again, and again.

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Port Morant, Jamaica

Something about that sky seemed to simultaneously comfort and encourage, as if you could lay in the grass looking up at it, sharing stories about the past and hopes for the future with a loved one, knowing that everything would turn out OK.

I felt the prickly sensation of déjà vu on the back of my neck as I pictured myself at the MOMA in front of Van Gogh’s star-filled night. That oil painted canvas elicited feelings of home and warm fuzziness.  As I gazed up at Jamaica’s night sky, my eyes began to water and I realized how the villagers of Van Gogh’s tiny town felt, how something as ordinary as stars could make you feel that finally you found home.

How to Eat Chicken Foot

  1. Fly (or boat, or swim) to Jamaica

    Flying to Jamaica Photo Credit Stephen

    Flying to Jamaica
    Photo Credit Stephen

  2. Find a family to take you in until at least Saturday.
  3. Wait until Saturday Soup Day.
  4. On Saturday, your host family will make you soup, because Saturday is Soup Day, a day on which Jamaicans let a pot of soup simmer for hours. Make sure you ask for chicken foot in the soup.
  5. Don’t stare at the ominously puckered chicken foot as your soup is set before you. Picturing Chicken-You-One-Chased won’t help either.
  6. Eat the chicken neck if it’s there. You’ll know it’s a neck because it looks like a neck. It’s meaty goodness!

    Pumpkin Soup with Chicken Neck & Foot

    Pumpkin Soup with Chicken Neck & Foot

  7. Do glance at your host family as they eat the chicken foot. They will most likely spoon the foot up to mouth level, from where they will take their fingers, pinch the foot at its widest part, and bite off all three toes in one chomp.
  8. Do what they just did. Bite off the three toes.
  9. Repeat with the part of the chicken foot you pinched. Don’t eat the bone, but the cartilage is edible.
  10. Enjoy eating food some would not deem worthy of the word.
  11. Thank your host family!
  12. Help with the dishes, remembering to ask how to correctly wash dishes in Jamaica so you have content for your next blog post 😉

Traveling Solo: The World’s Longest Slumber Party

Everyone: “Don’t you get lonely traveling by yourself?”
Me: “HAIL NO!”

I recently returned from a long-term trip (journey? junket? vacation? trek? odyssey? 😉 ) only to purchase a cheap one-way ticket OUT a few months later. But while I’m here, stuck in trip limbo, everyone asks me the same questions. One of the most recurring aims to discover if I become lonely or tired of traveling by myself when abroad. In fact, I find the reverse to be true.

I don’t stay in hotels when I travel. I rarely have the money. Hotels happen when either a) I splurge for a holiday or b) I miss my train and am haplessly wandering, wondering where I will lay my head next (or possibly c) someone else is paying….but let’s be real). Instead, I stay in hostels, I couchsurf, I WWOOF, I (will) housesit, and, ever so fitfully, I sleep in airports. I lay my head next to other people’s. Because for me, traveling is one long slumber party.

CHEESE PARIS FROMAGE O LA LA!

You shouldn’t have to ask why this picture is here. Cheese is always relevant.

 

So it makes sense that I’m never lonely while on the road. Sleeping in communal spaces forces you to be sociable, whether you are naturally or not. This I quickly discovered on my trip, when, early one morning (or late one night?…) my bunkmate arrived, proclaiming “I think I’m underneath you”, much to my dismay. Whether you like it or not, and chances are it will be a mixed bag, sleeping communally is not a lonely enterprise.

Though I may have highlighted some of the awkwarder circumstances of life in hostels etc., I wouldn’t travel any other way. How else would I have met an Indian with whom I could discuss the idiosyncratic intimacies of our intricate lives, or the Germans that kept me dancing all night, or the Ozzies with whom I had SO many inspired conversations (and beers)?

You simply don’t meet the people I met at hotels. Those empty simulacra of lived travel consist merely of cubes with beds; they are devoid of the excitement, energy, and purpose bubbling up in the hostels of the world. There’s a reason the song’s not called Heartbreak Hostel. You fall in, not out, of love at hostels.

Paris Amour

The City of Love….and Lights

 

There were even times when I spent a day entirely to myself, to recharge my battery, and avoid burning out on too much talk. Those days, I appreciated my return to the hostel (or courchsurf, etc.) even more, as I knew I was coming back to a community with a similar agenda. I’m not saying people at hostels are all the same. Far from it! But there is an ethos of solidarity at the most timid of hostels. I’ve even heard of hostel owners forbidding guitars because of too much good spirit (though that may have been the result of one too many Jack Johnson songs).

So, no, I am most definitely not lonely when I travel. I’ve got a whole world to explore, with others on their own odyssey to share it with.

One Perfect Night

Palais Garnier

A view of the chandelier and Chagall-painted ceiling of the Palais Garnier in Paris

I wish I could have seen my face as I stepped inside Paris’ Palais Garnier. I could feel my eyes growing larger, my neck tilting to catch every last detail, and my cheeks tensing because I couldn’t stop smiling. I saw women in floor-length dresses, wrapped in furs, arm-in-arm with their tux-clad lovers. I saw young girls similarly awed by the Opéra’s majesty, running about and pointing emphatically.

I walked up the grand staircase cut from Italian marble, soft light reflecting off each step. Every time I see a staircase like this, I can’t help but think that people just look sexier on staircases. Why else would Jack have that awed grin on his face as Rose descends the Titanic’s grand staircase?

I walked up and up, and entered my box. It had a place for coats, a little bench, and individual chairs overlooking the stage. I imagined myself in the nineteenth century, waiting as my friends and admirers came to my box during intermission to gossip about everyone else.

I leaned over the edge of the box, holding the column with an iron grip, straining my neck to see every last detail of Chagall’s colorful explosion on the ceiling. He painted scenes from various operas, from Carmen to L’oiseau de feu to The Magic Flute, indicating to which composer each opera belonged.  Some may think the newer ceiling clashes with the late-nineteenth century building, but I thought the ceiling balanced the auditorium in a way that paintings of nymphs and goddesses from antiquity never could.

When the curtains raised, dancers in Christian Lacroix-designed costumes sprung about on stage, telling the story of La Source, in which a beautiful water nymph sacrifices herself so that a hunter she falls in love with can be with the woman he loves. As the dancers moved, light would catch the Swarovski crystals adorning their costumes, splashing glittery light across the stage.

I felt my eyes become watery as the water nymph sacrificed herself and the two lovers embraced. I didn’t want the night to end! Descending the grand staircase and watching again as the spectators glided down the steps in their fancy dress, I beamed.  There are certain moments in life you think of and recall exactly how ebulliently happy you were. When I think of my night at the Palais Garnier, I smile, that sense of awe and inextinguishable curiosity coursing through me. A la prochaine!

Obviously, I’m in love!

This is the first time I’m doing this (and it may well be the last), but here it goes. I am going to post something I wrote in my travel journal verbatim, because, well, it’s just kind of more awesome that way. You’ll see…

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At Casa de Vinos La Brujidera, Granada. If you go, try the Calvente, a local white wine!

In La Brujidera Casa de Vinos, sipping Calvente, which apparently is the “local pride” of Granada. It’s nice! Doesn’t have a strong smell, but when you sip it, it’s full of citrus BANG- like a smack full of grapefruit & nice minerals. And they’re playing AMAZING jazz standards. Obviously, I’m’ in love!

OMG- I don’t usually like olives that much, but these are heaven. Salty, but not too much, with the olive taste you get from olive oil. In other words- the GOOD olive taste- they even taste a bit tangy-sweet- I WANT MORE! Spain is such a good idea! Maybe even a little pepper in these olives? Wow- it’s like I’m converting to a new religion. This bar has excellent proselytizers!

The wow-ness continues- that bread w/ the ham & melted cheese. I think I’m coming here again. Or maybe I’ll have another glass…or both. Both. (I’m really hoping they bring out another plate of tapas w/ the 2nd glass.

~

They did bring a second plate 🙂 First sip of the 2nd Calvente, just as snappy-fresh as the last glass! And the olives are still bomb-diggedy! Maybe I should move to Spain- THEY JUST started playing “C’est si bon”!!!! That’s it. I give up. This is one of those moments you look back on years in the future thinking “That’s the life”, but it is my life. And c’est si bon!! 🙂

As I read this post, sitting in a café overlooking the Atlantic in Donostia/San Sebatstián, I smile. There are things about me that will change, especially as I continue to travel, but one thing will never change. I will never abandon that joie de vivre that makes me, me!

Reflection on Sevilla

A puddle reflecting Sevilla