Peppermint Ice Cream Love

Some events happen so many times they become more of an amalgamation of memories, rather than actual singular episodes. They become the stuff of legends and no matter what actually happened, it plays the same in my head. I can’t differentiate one experience from another, I remember them all the same way.

I was a princess riding in the back of my grandparents red Chrysler. It was such a big old car and I was so tiny to have the whole backseat to myself. The seats were vinyl and my little girl legs always stuck to it. But I didn’t care, I was the the most important one riding through town, with my grandfather at the wheel.

Looking back, I realize this was the time-frame in which my grandmother started to get sick.  Of course, my 8 year old self didn’t see it or least I didn’t understand it. But my grandparents would take me out to eat anytime I stayed with them and they always took me to the same restaurant.


An odd name for a restaurant, to be sure, at least my younger self thought so. The old Greek man behind the counter greeted my grandparents by name. They obviously went there a lot, although I didn’t think of such things when they took me there.

It was enormous to me, table after table filled with 4 sparkly place settings each complete with a paper place-mat and a cloth napkin. Each table held a small white vase filled with yellow and white daisies or red carnations or whatever flower fit the season. It’s the only thing that changes in my recollections. The interior seemed so festive, yet somehow cozy. The walls were filled with red vinyl booths, just like the seats in my grandparents car.

We always sat in a booth.

And my little girl legs stuck to the vinyl just the same.

I was the main attraction when we were there – I could order anything on the menu. Anything. It didn’t really matter though. I was a creature of habit and I would order the same thing, time after time after time.

To begin my feast, only a cup of cream of chicken soup with rice would do. So thick and chickeny, I still search for that soup on menus today. I am usually disappointed to find, it is never as good as it is in my head.

The soup was accompanied by bread and butter from the bread basket. My grandfather and I preferred the long rolls, but if they didn’t have any, the dark rye would do. We would dip our rolls into the thick soup and sop up the remains with the tail ends of our bread.

My grandmother would order a salad with thousand island dressing. She would offer me half and I’d have the best of both worlds. Soup AND a salad. I was a princess, indeed.

My main course sometimes varied, depending on the day of the week we visited. Fridays meant fried perch with macaroni and cheese. Other days would mean chicken kiev or spaghetti. The spaghetti was made with those really fat spaghetti noodles and oodles upon oodles of Parmesan cheese.  My favorite was the chicken kiev. My grandmother would cut it up for me as I watched the hot butter ooze out from the middle. It came with rice and was slathered with chicken gravy. Yum, yum, yum.

But the best part of my feast was the dessert. I could not leave the restaurant until I had a bowl of peppermint ice cream. Talk about comfort food. Merely thinking about peppermint ice cream reminds me of my grandparents.

My grandparents never got dessert, in fact, my grandfather would save the little cups of sour cream that came with their baked potatoes and eat that while I ate my peppermint ice cream. That was his ice cream he would say. He’d tease me, too, because he never let me try it. For years I thought it was something all grown-ups did. I was sad to learn otherwise.

When we were done with our desserts, my grandfather and I would go up to the counter and pay the bill. He would give me the money and the tab and I would hand it to the old Greek man behind the counter. In return, he handed me the change, which I promptly gave to my grandfather, and a dum-dum. One of those tiny little suckers that lasted no more than a minute or two and then they were gone. Just a whiff of flavor, but enough to make you feel like a princess yet again.

I never remember the ride home to my grandparents house. As soon as I was settled in the back of that old Chrysler, I would fall asleep.

Both belly and heart full. I was content and I felt loved.


Going out to dinner with my grandparents is one of my best childhood memories. My Grandmother, in particular acted as a buffer between my mother and I. Even though I know now, that my grandmother was ill, she always took time with me. Always made me feel loved and wanted, unlike so many memories I have of my mother. This particular memory sums up how I wanted to always feel. I was the center of attention and I was appreciated simply because I existed.

During my stay at the hospital, one of the nurses mentioned that she had gotten peppermint ice cream at a local gas station/ice cream shop. I spent the rest of the day pining for my grandmother and wishing I could have one more dinner with grandparents. The ice cream itself was irrelevant, I very rarely even eat peppermint ice cream. The mere mention of it though, had my head in the past for the rest of the day.

Such a powerful association for me. Peppermint ice cream equals Love. What could be better than that?

This is a writing exercise in two parts, created by Kate Hopper on Memoir writing for The Red Dress Club:

Part I
Make a list of some of your most vivid childhood (or more recent) memories. (Maybe it’s an image of your father or mother doing something they did regularly; maybe it’s a visit to a grandmother’s house.)
Jot down a few memories and then pick one and write it down in as much detail as possible. (Take 10-15 minutes to do that…)
Part II
Now I want you to investigate what this memory means to you. Ask yourself the following questions: Why has this stuck with me? What did this mean to me at the time? Why did I (or someone else in the scene) react the way I (they) did? How does it feel to look back on it? How does it still affect me (or not)? (Take 10-15 minutes to do that.)
Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , | 32 Comments

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32 thoughts on “Peppermint Ice Cream Love

  1. Okay, this just brought back a flood of memories of eating out with my maternal grandparents as a child (we did this a lot, as my parents worked and I stayed with them). I could order whatever I wanted, dessert was never denied if I wished, and I got to “pay” the tab.

    I still enjoy dining out with them to this day, but the view is different as an adult. Thank you for bringing back one of my favorite childhood memory staples and reminding me I should really write about them sometime.

    Perfect descriptions, that oh-so-familiar sticking to the vinyl seats. I was there with you. Or with my grandparents. Either way, I was a child, the co-star of dinner (had to share the spotlight with my sister), and loving every minute of it.

    I suddenly have a craving for our prime rib and hot fresh bread at the Speakeasy….

    Love this.

    Love this.

  2. Peppermint Ice cream- I associate ice cream with my grandmother as she always used to take us. I liked the imagery of little legs sticking to vinyl. It has been a long time but I remember that too.

    I wanted to be big so badly and my grandparents always seemed so much larger than I, at least until I got to be a grown up. Then I realized that they weren’t very big people, but even so they were big to me.

    This was very sweet.

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  4. Oh AMy!!! I LOVE this!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Atta girl! I am in love with this article. So very much! Please write more just like this! I feel like I was there with you sharing peppermint ice cream (which is one of my favorites!). My mother and I don’t have many memories to share but to me, peppermint or chocolate mint ice cream tastes like trips to an old book store where I got to pick out a book or two.. usually sweet valley twins or the indian in the cupboard..

  5. sharon

    Unsalted butter on thick slices of home baked white bread with salty ham or a soft-boiled egg. Saturday Teatime at my Nan’s house. And the smell of a just peeled Satsuma orange is Christmas to me. Both memories go back more than 50 years but I can taste those foods even now as I write about them and the faintest smell of a Satsuma triggers that little girl me with my Christmas stocking where the toe always contained a Satsuma.


  6. Lovely story, so evocative.

    I, too, loved peppermint ice cream as a child, but definitely not associated with my Grandma. Funny, how my Red Dress Club memoir was also a grandparent memory… but of a VERY different sort. In my childhood, my parents are the gentle loving ones, and my grandmother the harsh figure.

  7. you pulled all of this together beautifully. love the image of the little girl legs sticking to the vinyl.

    i’ve never had peppermint ice cream (doesn’t appeal to me), but my kids love it. love that you have these memories and that you shared them here with us….seemed effortless. really loved reading it.

  8. This was wonderful… it brought back a lot of memories of the time I spent with my maternal grandparents as a child. I love it!

  9. Wow. Your descriptions made me feel like I was there tasting the food with you.
    I forgot thousand island dressing even existed even though I ate it every day in college.
    Great job.

  10. Your descriptions were so perfect I could feel myself there. I love this piece and all of the memories of days with my own grandparents that came flooding back with it.

  11. What wonderful memories of your grandparents!

  12. Illness in someone we love is hard. Falling asleep in the car…I did the same only mine was not to say “good bye.” Very well done!…:)JP

  13. This is one of the very best pieces I have read that have to do with the sense of taste…people don’t usually use that sense when they choose a scene to “show”. This was lovely! And I read it right before lunch and now my hot pocket just doesn’t seem to be what I want.

    And I can’t eat a pig in the blanket (a REAL, Dutch one) without thinking of my Gram.

    I LOVE LOVE LOVED this piece!

  14. There is so much here that I want to comment on.

    I love this line and the way you discuss how memories melt together, “It’s the only thing that changes in my recollections.” You illustrated that concept so beautifully.

    I also adore this line, “For years I thought it was something all grown-ups did. I was sad to learn otherwise.” That is so lovely.

    I spent every weekend of my childhood (until I turned 13) with my grandparents, who offered me a safe harbor, a place where I was the center of the world, the most important thing to them. Without them, I wouldn’t be me. The helped me to see the good in the world and to remain hopeful that my life could be lovely.

    I’m so happy that you had grandparents like that.

    Beautiful piece.

  15. This post made me hungry. What a wonderful, rich memory you have of these meals with your grandparents. I love the way the comfort food parallels the comfort they brought to your life just by being there.

  16. I’m just discovering the Red Dress website and haven’t written anything for it yet. Right now I’m enjoying visiting and discovering the large pool of talent here. I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this piece. Really lovely work.

  17. This is such a lovely tribute to your grandparents. I can feel the love between you in the details. Wonderful writing! I’m curious about what your grandmother thought about your mother. It sounds like your relationship with your mother was strained. What a gift for your grandmother to step in. (You have a much bigger piece here if you want to keep writing!) Love it! Thank you so much for sharing.


  18. Such great descriptions & writing! I used to love meals out with my grandparents as well. What a beautiful childhood memory!

  19. You’re ability to convey with words every little girl’s dream of being someone’s princess is truly remarkable. Thanks for taking me back to some good times.

  20. This is marvelous. I could feel the vinyl sticking to my own legs in those giant cars from my childhood.

    I was saddened when I picked up a pint of peppermint ice cream for my kids as a treat at Christmas time. They hated it. Oh well, more for me!

  21. Oh big fat happy sighs. I too have a few memories of eating with my grandparents and the attention they gave me was heady. And yes, there is something about a food that brings back that feeling of being loved. Even though it wasn’t their cooking, THEY provided that nourishment or treat. For me it was my grandmother’s homemade hot chocolate, in these tiny cups.
    Thank you for taking me there today.

  22. I just wrote about peppermint ice cream last week. I still love it to this day, even though it has different associations for me.

    Anyway, I love that your grandparents gave you the gift of love and acceptance and knowing what’s it’s like to be the center of someone’s universe.

  23. I love the line about the soup never tasting as good as it does in your memories. I think food memory is like that, and I’ve often been disappointed when I’ve gone back to a restaurant I once loved and the food doesn’t taste nearly as good as it does in my head.

  24. This is beautiful. You described everything. The ride. The restaurant. The dinners. Chicken Kiev. And peppermint ice cream.
    You grandparents were very special indeed.

  25. PearlsGirl

    I want to go to lunch with you guys! What a lovely story. Thanks for sharing.

  26. This was perfect. The descriptions of the food had my mouth watering, the ending…”peppermint ice cream equals love” left me smiling. I’m so very glad that you had such wonderful grandparents in your life.

  27. evafannon

    What a wonderful post! Your story had me watching you from another table in the restaurant…and what wonderful memories to cherish. Thank you for sharing!

  28. This is like comfort food but in words! Love it!

  29. Such a great memory, even if it’s tinged by your grandmother’s illness.

    With my grandpa, it was bubblegum ice cream once a week after school.

    It’s funny the things that stay with you.

  30. I loved being brought into this day with you- this was really fantastic. The tiny legs sticking to the vinyl and the booths matching the seats of the car are my favorite parts. I’m glad you had this and that your grandma and grandpa knew how important it was for you to have this.

  31. I think that everyone has that one particular food/drink that they can’t eat/drink without thinking about someone or something from their past. For me, I can’t drink sweet tea without thinking about my daddy. He always made sweet tea, but we lived up north so I didn’t know that sweet tea actually had a name. I just thought my dad really liked a lot of sugar in his tea.

    This was a great piece to share your memory of your grandparents. Such beauty and happiness when it seems you didn’t have that everywhere else.

  32. For me it was the McDonald’s up in Springfield VT, and the drive in the backseat of my Gramma’s Ford LTD. And then an ice cream cone at the little shop in town, the one next to the IGA.

    These memories of our grandparents are so precious.

    Yours was beautifully rendered.

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