My favorite comedy routine growing up was Bill Cosby's bit on the ice creram man. My favorite Van Halen song? Ice Cream Man. I don't really eat the stuff these days.
I know New Englanders haven’t cornered the market on loving ice cream, but I read something somewhere at some point long ago that we eat more of the stuff up in our little corner of the country than all the rest of you combined. I suspect that maybe because we have such long dark Winters and endless dreary Springs, we binge on ice cream in the summertime. Maybe, maybe not, it’s just a theory.
What I am sure of is that New England in particular is home to dozens of roadside ice cream stands. Many of them are seasonal only, opening up on April 15, giving comfort to all - the devout, the liars, the cheats, the shady dealers as well as the play by the rules types – on tax day, when everybody needs a little extra sweetness their lives, and closing on Columbus day, when we’re all distracted by the autumn foliage exploding all around us. A few of these joints have morphed into honest to god empires.
Richardson’s in Middleton, MA is the big one around here. Many a unsuspecting chocolate chip cookie dough fiend (Me) have waddled up to the local ice cream stand , the fantasy of some family owned recipe being secretly doled out just for their quavering tongues. Sometimes that’s actually the case, but mostly it’s dropped off in the back by an unmarked truck. Usually, if it’s good, it’s Richardson’s. It doesn’t matter though, the stuff is sweet.
For me, Carter’s in Bradford (which is part of Haverhill) MA is special. It’s the place up there on my banner at the moment. In fact, if you look at that picture you’ll see my wife and her best friend since childhood, Jane (Grape Nut), holding daughter Sydney’s (our god daughter) hand as they approach the back of the line. Jane’s father and Maria’s father where best friends as well. And now our kids are all best friends. 3 generations of close families stopping at the same road side ice cream shack. How can they say this stuff is bad for you?
My wife (Chocolate) had her first taste of ice cream (pistachio I think) at Carter’s. So did my daughter (Chocolate and vanilla, but she’s moved on to black rasberry). My son too (Chocolate, but he’s more adventurous. His latest is coconut). When I was in High School and going steady with the girl I’d marry we’d often walk the 2 1/2 miles to Carter’s from my house. I have no idea what we’d talk about, but it was endlessly fascinating. These days we walk a mile to get there from Jane’s house.
When you reach the intersection where Carter’s stands there’s a great view – the one in the banner – of Bradford, and across the Merrimack River, Haverhill, which sits on the side of a hill. Haverhill was where Archie Comics creator Bob Montana grew up and based his town of Riverdale. The old High School is a dead ringer for the one in the comics. I haven’t seen Jughead, but I’ll bet that at one point in his life he scooped a few at Carter’s.