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Change of Seasons

Pushing the Ice Cream Envelope

Karen Roberts

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Karen Roberts loves her ice cream...
(Thad Allender/Lawrence Journal-World Photo)
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At the official start of summer for most Americans, we're talking about what summer means to us. What summer means to Karen Roberts is ice cream -- lots and lots of ice cream.

Roberts is a nurse practitioner from Lawrence, Kan., so you'd think she'd know her ice cream intake limits. But still, she decided to push the ice cream envelope.


My family loves ice cream. When we eat it, invariably at some point one of us will look up from our bowl, and say dreamily, "I could eat a gallon of this stuff."

Sadly, no one ever offers you a gallon. Even seconds are considered greedy.

But one day last summer when my husband and I were shivering in the frozen foods section, we saw it: a two-for-one sale on Breyer's. In a fever, we loaded our cart with four containers, all mint chocolate chip -- $11 worth of fat and sugar.

To make up for this splurge, we returned a loaf of fancy whole wheat bread, a jar of organic peanut butter and a box of Band-Aids to the shelves. Fiber? Protein? The assurance of a well-healed cut? Inconsequential! A dream was within reach, that was all that mattered.

Back home, we stared into the freezer, giddy with anticipation.

We would finally find out, once and for all, who could really eat a gallon of ice cream. As a disclaimer, I'd like to point out here that our daughters were both over 16 and legally able to marry in most states, so encouraging them to consume an entire half-gallon of ice cream at one sitting, in place of an evening meal, wasn't really bad parenting.

Not really.

The Great Ice Cream Eating Contest began at sunset on a Sunday. Each of us tore into our personal half-gallon, scooping out the largest bowls imaginable. We dug in like hogs at the trough.

My daughters and I started to slow a bit as we reached the end of our first bowl, but my rail-thin husband continued to power it down. Volume, not speed, was the goal -- but still, an urgency started to build. We raced to the kitchen and refilled our bowls. Halfway through the second bowl, I began to feel queasy.

"She's out!" they said, as I threw in the spoon. Both girls proceeded to hit the wall as well, one crying out, "Brain freeze!" and clutching her mouth, the other dropping her bowl on the counter in postprandial exhaustion.

We watched in fascination as my husband forced down bite after bite, going back for bowl after bowl, emptying one carton and starting on another before finally calling it quits. Half an hour later he lay bloated on the couch, moaning and holding his stomach, faintly trumpeting his status as winner and Champion Ice Cream Eater.

We sat dazed in our living room, sky-high blood sugars now crashing, mouths and brains frozen nearly solid. We had finally -- finally! -- eaten our fill. The rankings were posted, the champion anointed.

Supper was abandoned.

Now, we eat ice cream in moderation, absent the grandiose claims. We eat it quietly, thoughtfully, savoring each swallow. Like all lovers, we had discovered that in any relationship, there is such a thing as "enough."

More stories from our Change of Seasons series

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