Maybe I don’t give the 21st century enough credit. Smart phones, the Internet’s coming of age, the MP3 player – all have had the same blunt impact on daily life as freeways plopped in the middle of Detroit. It’s easy to wax rhapsodic about Henry Ford, Detroit steel, art deco skyscrapers, and the rise of the middle class, but one day, streaming music to your phone from satellites in outer space, live GPS maps, and instantaneous text searches on Google Books’ massive digital library will surely emit that same sepia-toned glow(or perhaps in this case, 32 bits of color tones, but you get the point).
It’s the power of nostalgia, that cloying, sappy emotion that often distorts the sentiments of even the most sensible people. In my quest to uncover and understand the magic behind everyday reality, I’ve grown to realize that the real power is in those moments that don’t take hindsight to fully appreciate, that make us stop in our tracks immediately. Which, neatly, brings us to…
Ice cream! The soda shop and the milk bar may have come and gone, but the ice cream parlor is still alive and well in America, impervious to fashion and changes in taste. Call it Baskin-Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery or what you will, but there it is, continually delighting generation after generation.
Luckily for us Michiganders, few companies make better ice cream than our own Ashby’s. Indeed, the hardworking folks at Ashby’s make ice cream that is 14-16% butterfat, putting a scoop of Ashby’s right up there with the very best Ben and Jerry’s or Häagen-Dazs has to offer. You could could say they put the cream in ice cream. Forget that whipped fluff sold at Dairy Queen – you might as well call it iced milk. Ashby’s is thick but not too thick, the vanilla strong but not overpowering, the end result of some serious soul-searching in the ’80s on what makes quality ice cream, and we’re all the better for it.
Ashby’s is so good, so creamy and soft, that when Tim Allen had Detroit’s National Coney Island head out to California to cater at the set of Home Improvement, National brought some Ashby’s along for the trip so those sunburned Hollywood types could get a full taste of fine Michigan dining. Which was perfect, because in my mind, you don’t know true bliss until you’ve eaten 5 coney dogs and a small mountain of Ashby’s. The weightiness, the sense of floating on grease and fat down a clogged tunnel of love, your belt bursting open in triumph – magic, man.
Not content with just making plain, good ol’ fashion ice cream, Ashby’s stuffs about every fruit, nut, and sugary concoction you could think of into its many varieties of ice cream, from blueberry pie to cotton candy, toffee to whiskey. The company is a veritable terror at the World Dairy Expo, taking home awards not just for its vanilla ice cream but its Belgian chocolate ice cream and Spumoni ice cream as well, the latter a delirious combination of cherry amaretto, pistachio almond, dark chocolate, and golden rum.
Of course, I’m sure that by now that you’re thinking I’m on the take, Ashby’s presumably drowning my journalistic integrity with gallons of sweet, free ice cream. But you have to believe me when I tell you I’m not. It’s honestly that amazing.
And look, as much as I enjoy Ashby’s, I’ll readily admit it’s not something I’d eat everyday. For one, I’d be as fat as a cow. But more importantly, I think the company does put a bit too much sugar in some of its flavors – more than I can handle sometimes. After a hearty scoop of Key Lime Pie ice cream, for example, I’m tapped out for the evening, my gums buzzing. It’s kinda like trying to eat a whole bag of fun sized snickers… fun when you’re a kid, but as an adult, you’ve got limits.
What I guess I’m saying is I enjoy Ashby’s, but in moderation. It may be priced like an ordinary ice cream, but it definitely doesn’t taste like one.