It’s become a well-versed joke among my colleagues and host family that I like ice cream -a lot. At first I kept my fascination with the creamy, frozen delectable hidden from them, not wanting to let them in on my secret obsession. They were so fascinated by this American girl who doesn’t eat pork, and cooks vegetables lang (only), and runs every morning and likes to walk everywhere. Healthy lifestyle, my nanay says every time she tells someone about me; good eating. How could I spoil that image? In the States and England it took me years to get to a ‘healthy lifestyle’ and here I’ve arrived with the tagline! How often do we get that chance to start our image over?
Growing up I think I liked ice cream as much as any other kid. I have fond memories of going on long walks to the nearest Baskin Robins during summer evenings in the Chicago suburbs. We would pick out our flavors—two scoops, one usually chocolate chip cookie dough—and they would be devoured before we made it halfway home. I have one spectacularly vivid memory of the sheer bliss and wonderment when a cantaloupe-sized ice cream sundae arrived at our table of the Ghirardelli’s factory in San Francisco. And I can still remember the distinct taste of the delicious banana flavored (and shaped) ice cream pops that we used to get at the swimming pool in Taiwan… talking about those now, I think I would pay A LOT to get my hands on one of those ice creams again.
Flash forward a dozen years or so and I am getting ready to join the Peace Corps. I am scouring blogs and Reddit pages for advice on anything I should do, purchase, or revel in before I start my service. Most of it is pretty consistent: drink good beer and wine, eat cheese, and spend time with your loved ones. Somewhere in my research, I swear, I read something about eating ice cream and for some reason, I really took that nugget of advice to heart. A month before departure, while visiting family in Israel my mother and I often walked out of our way to get delicious, homemade salted caramel fudge pops or vegan coconut creamsicles or even a scrumptiously sticky gelato shared with my 2-year-old brother perched on the sidewalk of the old port. In my travels to Germany and New York with my 22-year old brother, B, ice cream stops were an integral part of our itinerary. Luckily my grandparents were avid ice cream buyers and we were never in short supply once we got to Chicago and I made sure to indulge in Ben ‘n Jerry’s my final day in town.
I didn’t indulge ice cream right when I moved here, but once I started it was like opening Pandora’s Box. Even with my Peace Corps pesos, ice cream is decently affordable. There are usually vendors with mini pushcarts and an umbrella selling homemade flavors (ube, melon, or mango) to the kids in front of the schools; a small cone is just 10 peso and a large cone is 15 or 20 (the equivalent of 0.21, 0.32, and 0.43 USD respectively). If I’m feeling indulgent, I get a pre-packaged Cornetto which range from 20-25 peso (0.43-0.54$) a piece, worth it for the nice chunk of chocolate in the bottom of the cone! We’re getting pricey here, so Cornetto’s are not for everyday indulgences but they come in an amazing array of flavors: Tiramissyou (get it?!), red velvet, mango, chocolate, chocolate disc (comes with a big hunk of chocolate on the top), caramel, cookies n’ cream, ube, good ol’ fashioned vanilla and a coconut bread flavor!
If I’m feeling really, really indulgent. I treat myself to some ice cream from Bohol’s Buzzz Café, a local restaurant chain based off of the Bohol Bee Farm where everything is organic, locally made, and incredibly delicious. Luckily for my waistline and my wallet there isn’t a Buzzz Café in my town or anywhere nearby! I have to take the 2.5 hour bus ride into the main city to make it to a Buzzz, which I can only do on a day off. Saturday, I treated myself to a scoop of salted-honey caramel ice cream (coconut based, so it’s actually vegan) at the Buzzz Café overlooking the beautiful beaches of Panglao, Bohol. At 60 peso (1.30$) I nearly burst my budget for the day, but I don’t regret it for a single second.
And so my obsession with ice cream has evolved and my addiction is now public knowledge to my host family and my coworkers. At home and at every party I’m invited to, my family gets extremely excited when I’m offered ice cream. “Ice cream, Stav’s favorite!” They exclaim and we all laugh together. In the evenings we sometimes play cards where the loser will buy the winner an ice cream (guess who started that trend?). And at work, my coworkers all take turns buying merienda (snack) for the office. When it’s my turn I splurge on Cornettos for everyone, wanting them to share in my indulgences a little. We laugh about it then, too—the American girl and her ice cream—but I see how they devour their cones with glee.
Anyway, even as I write this post my colleagues are kindly laughing about my ice cream obsession. In an attempt to better my language learning we have implemented a 1 peso fine for every English word spoken in the office. I haven’t spoken in nearly an hour. Now, they’re teasing that if I speak English I’ll put enough pesos in the pot to buy everyone Cornetto’s. I smiled at them, put my pointer finger to my lips and went shhh, and then we all laughed.
Happy Monday everyone and thanks for reading!