Friday, July 29, 2005

Seeking Perfection

While we fallen creatures won't be perfect for, most likely, a long, long time to come, I am seeking perfection in a couple important areas of my life: pens and chocolate ice cream sodas.

I recently received a catalog proclaiming to be "Your Source for Posters, Sportwear and Promotional Items!" and was horrified to see on page 35 its "Bentcils and Ink Bend Jrs." These are those crazy deformed pens and pencils with apparently meaningful representations (e.g., an apple, pink flamingo, and knot) at their tops. Sigh.

My pens live up to standards, thank you very much. I must be able to see ink level. (What a lousy surprize to be in the middle of interviewing someone and watch the blue line turn pale...) I prefer blue ink. Extra fine is a must. I don't want ink that bleeds through the paper. And the pen must be fast, able to speed me through an interview. My current fave: Pilot VBall Extra Fine. That pen is, indeed, mighty fine.

Chocolate ice-cream sodas are also important. But so hard to find one worth its weight in maraschino cherries. When I was about 13, I tasted my first ever in the Chicago train station. For the next 20 years, I searched and search for another as good as that one had been. No luck. I tried them in Hollywood, in Seattle, in Wisconsin, and in Indiana. But the world was devoid of good chocolate ice cream sodas. And the Chicago train station didn't sell them anymore when I went back there ...

Then about 10 years ago, an ice-cream counter girl said she'd been criticized by a customer for making a chocolate ice cream soda completely wrong. "He was from Chicago," she remembered. I asked her how he said those heavenly concoctions should be made. Below is a recipe:

Chocolate Ice Cream Soda
(also called "Black and Whites")
tall ice cream glasses (not plastic)
chocolate syrup
vanilla ice cream (good blue-collar vanilla, not gourmet)
whipped cream (the kind that squirts out of the tall can)
maraschino cherries, with stems
long spoons

Set out tall glasses. Pour in about 1/4 cup chocolate syrup. Add a dollop of milk (about 2 tablespoons). Stir. Pour in seltzer. It will fizz up fast, so careful. Add one scoop of ice cream. Add lots of whipped cream and a cherry on top. Insert straw and spoon.

*The milk is what most places don't include, yet it's vitally important to make the soda just right.