• Right to the core
    March 10,2014

    Merriam-Webster defines “a hankering” as a strong or persistent desire. I’m betting that Messrs. Merriam and Webster were thinking of Ben and

    Jerry’s Homemade ice cream when they came up with this definition. Ben and Jerry’s just came out with a new line of uber-indulgent “Core” products. Each pint of this decadent dessert includes a core center of assorted hazelnut fudge, peanut butter fudge, caramel or real raspberry, which complements the super-premium ice cream and multitude of chunks packed into every pint. It is rumored that a single serving of Core ice cream has slightly more calories than the population of Hong Kong.

    Last weekend, Kathy expressed a desire to taste Salted Caramel — one of the new Core flavors. At first, I thought she was experiencing a hankering. In a short period of time I was to discover that her hankering was actually the mutant child of “Extreme Passion” and “Find at all Costs.”

    It started innocently enough as we ran into a local grocery store and headed for the ice cream section. When we did not see any of the four Core varieties among the other Ben and Jerry pints, I suggested we grab another flavor. She stared at me like I had just asked her to donate a kidney, and I immediately sensed that this solution would be like feeding a starving dog a rubber bone.

    “They had some here,” Kathy said, combing the site for clues like a crime scene investigator. “Look at the small print on the unit price shelf tag.” Sure enough, listed in writing as small as microfiche were the names of the missing Core pints.

    I was both impressed by her detective skills and worried by the crazed look developing in her eyes. “Come on,” she said, yanking me off my feet and out the door in a cloud of dust and urgency.

    We stopped at a second store with the same result. Plenty of Ben and Jerry’s, but empty shelf space where the coveted Core pints recently sat. Once again someone had beaten us to the stash. It was getting serious. I wasn’t sure if this adventure felt more like “Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” but one thing was certain: We were definitely on a quest.

    We got closer to the elusive treat on our third stop, as we saw another couple staring into the store freezer searching for the same ice cream.

    “We had some last night,” the woman said. Desperate times called for desperate measures, and without speaking I knew my partner and I would assume our “good cop/bad cop” roles in order to question the couple.

    “How was it?” I asked, talking the lead of the more passive interrogator.

    “It was very ...”

    “You realize you are a part of this shortage problem,” bad cop sneered. “We haven’t had any yet, and you are out here looking for more.” Then Kathy turned away from the couple and gave them a shoulder colder than the frozen goods behind the glass door. She had the acting chops. I mean, this was Academy Award-caliber stuff.

    “She really had her heart set on trying the Salted Caramel,” good cop offered. “I wonder if you can tell us where you scored the ice cream you ate yesterday?”

    But bad cop had another idea and cut the interrogation short. “Let’s ask the manager if there is any out back,” she whispered as we walked away.

    I thought the manager might have a better chance of finding Champ and Bigfoot playing gin rummy in the break room before discovering an unopened pallet of this premium ice cream, but it was worth a try.

    Kathy approached the manager like a diner approaching a maître de to ask for preferred seating. I half expected to see her squeeze a folded bill into his palm to get his full attention.

    “Let me go check,” he said.

    To his credit the man didn’t laugh out loud at our request to find undiscovered pints of the rare flavors half the state was looking for in his store. I suspect, however, he may have snickered once or twice as he hid in the next aisle under the guise of checking in the back room for the ice cream. He returned in a few minutes empty-handed.

    At our sixth store, we approached the freezer resigned to the fact we would be disappointed once again. And then we saw it. Stacked among the old standby flavors of Ben and Jerry’s were several pints of the Core flavors.

    That night we enjoyed the taste of victory in the form of Salted Caramel, and it was good. Unfortunately, today I am experiencing a hankering for the Peanut Butter Fudge Core ice cream. In fact, it might even be a bit stronger than a hankering.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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