Perhaps there's something in the air circulating through The Kansan newsroom, but snow cone flavors seem to be a popular topic of discussion at the moment.
Of course, for this writer, it's almost an omnipresent thought thanks to the routine of stand-up comedian Brian Regan that is burned into my brain ("grape's a favorite; cherry's another favorite"). Talking about this very bit with some members of a summer softball league I am a part of, I couldn't help but remember those experiences of summers past growing up in Salina and stopping by the Sno Wizard when the heat was nearly unbearable, trying to get some relief in the form of a cool treat.
For the record, my go-to flavor combination was usually "tiger's blood" and "blue magic" (with "wedding cake" on standby, depending on my mood). However, all this talk of snow cone flavors got me to thinking about other staples of the summer snack pantry.
Snow cones are well and good, but let's not forget about the godfather of chillingly sweet palate pleasers — ice cream. That was summer encapsulated for me. Growing up, I was always playing baseball in June/July and after each game was over that meant a short trip down the street for a vanilla malt at Braum's.
Now, I don't know if it is because of that formative experience, but to me there is no greater ice cream treat than a vanilla malt at Braum's. I am certainly open to recommendations, though; I mean, I am the guy who has ordered Thanksgiving-themed pints from an artisan ice cream shop in Portland, Oregon. Believe it or not, the salted caramel turkey ice cream was pretty good.
If we weren't going to Braums to get our ice cream fix, we were probably riding our bikes a few blocks down to Dairy Queen — the destination for "hot eats, cool treats." Listing all the staples of DQ's menu is something I don't have time to do, and truthfully I know I should tread carefully lest I stir up any painful memories of the erstwhile Newton location.
However, there was another destination outside of DQ we would venture to for some chilling refreshment — also accessible by bike — in the form of another summer staple, the ICEE.
Yes, I know, ICEEs are available year-round, but I would argue that maximum enjoyment is received from these frozen beverages through the months of June, July and August. After a long bike ride on a hot, summer day, a large Coca-Cola ICEE definitely hit the spot. Slushies — and other semi-frozen drinks — would do in a pinch as well.
Popsicles are another standby and almost required to be stocked in the freezer once summer rolls around. From standard fare like freezer pops to more exotic offerings like bomb pops and creamsicles, it's hard to go wrong. Once again, my childhood has informed my preferences here, as I sometimes find myself craving a push-pop (a sherbet-based treat) — something my mom would regularly order when the Schwan's truck came around.
Given that I had a summer birthday (quietly sheds one single tear for the treats I didn't get to share at school), one of my other favorite summer treats may seem a bit quirky, but cheesecake and July go hand-in-hand for me. Is it a little too rich and decadent to be a staple of midsummer? Maybe, but please, just let me have this one.
As I've grown older, I've also gained an appreciation for an ice cold beer while grilling or hanging out poolside. While not quite in the same category as the other treats listed, when the two worlds collide (Guinness milkshake, anybody?) the resulting concoction can rival even those vanilla malts from Braum's.
No matter your own preference, I think we can all agree that there's something about that frosty refreshment combined with the summer heat that enhances the satisfaction from these treats. So cheers to that. Stay frosty this summer — and don't forget to watch out for brain freeze!
-Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.