Friday, October 5, 2012

Humor Me: At restaurants, self-serve soft-serve is quite a show

I’ve always known that my technique at the soft-serve ice cream dispenser could use improvement. Sometimes the ice cream swirls into the cone just right, but other times I end up with a lopsided blob that looks more amateurish than my childhood creations with the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine.

Still, I never thought my sketchy soft-serve skills would get me fired. And, even worse, by my own kids.

I was once a giant in their eyes, depicted in stick-figure drawings featuring stilt-like legs, arms protruding from my neck and a big head with one strand of hair on top. Sometimes they added a line like “I luv you bab,” showing their love and inability to differentiate the letters b and d.

I might still be a giant to my three sons in some ways, but they’re now old enough to identify sizable problems with my work at the soft-serve machine. They rarely agree on anything, but when it’s time to get the free dessert at restaurants such as Jason’s Deli or Souper Salad or some buffet, they’re unanimous:

They want Mom to do it.

I can understand why. My wife twirls the cone and the ice cream swirls in gracefully, creating a stable foundation so she can pile on more. The boys end up with what I would describe as “a tower of dessert” and they would describe as “not nearly as much as the other people.”

We’re both right.

If you’ve never been to a restaurant with free do-it-yourself soft-serve, you’re missing a pretty good show. Most people just put a small amount into a bowl or cone, but when others try to max it out, it’s really entertaining.

SofteiszapfenThey swirl the ice cream round and round until it rises six inches or more above the cone, pushing the limits of how much ice cream can balance on a wafer foundation. Most of the time, they pull off an impressive display of dessert engineering. Other times, the ice cream starts falling, and although they try to quickly adjust, they end up with ice cream on their hands or the floor.

They give this disgusted look like, “What is wrong with this machine?”

The restaurant’s management probably hoped that small cones would keep people in check, but consumers are an ingenious bunch. Some people skip the small cones and bowls and go right for the drink cups, which they use for milkshakes or root-beer floats. I wouldn’t be surprised if people are bringing in their own chocolate syrup and candy sprinkles.

Overindulgence, perhaps?

Well, I’m in no position to judge. I’m a refill-for-the-road kind of guy at the soda station, and when eating pizza, I have no control. I’m surprised my kids’ stick-figure drawings have never featured me holding a slice of pizza in each hand. It’s probably because hands are more difficult to draw than arms protruding from a neck.

What surprises me at the ice cream machine is that the engineers of the soft-serve skyscrapers don’t feel self-conscious. They’ve got to know people are watching as they walk back to their seats. When someone is carrying a load of ice cream that makes him look like Luke Skywalker wielding a light saber, it’s hard not to notice.

My kids certainly notice. They watch in admiration, mesmerized by the tower of ice cream, until I tell them to stop.

It’s not polite to stare, I tell them. Even if you’re staring at your new hero.

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