Carolyn White: Living the Good Life 8-6-12
“You might not be getting enough calcium in your daily diet,” Mother fretted during my recent trip home as she watched me pouring soy milk over oatmeal.
“Does pizza cheese count? I ate some at Missy’s the other night,” I responded.
“According to Dr. Oz we need about 1,000 mg a day,” she continued firmly, “otherwise there’s a risk of getting osteoporosis.”
“I don’t like milk,” I sighed. “It’s fattening and I just lost 20 pounds.”
“You can choose 2 percent or skim,” she persisted.
“Yuk.” Looking up at her with a wrinkled nose, I shook my head vigorously.
“Well do SOMETHING to boost your calcium intake, Honey,” Mom encouraged. “You don’t want to be stooped over when you get to be my age.” Little did we know that shortly after the return to Colorado, the dilemma would be solved when I was offered a summer job at the neighborhood soda fountain, located in the Cedaredge Floral and Gift store.
“Employees are allowed one beverage per day,” the manager explained as she was showing me around the spotless facility, “but be careful, it’ll add up.” She gestured to the hips. Heeding her warning, in the beginning I carefully avoided anything sweet, choosing instead to drink water with a slice of lemon. While refilling straw containers one afternoon, however, I started reminiscing about my Dad, who had loved malts. Deciding that a small amount made without the ice cream wouldn’t hurt, I dumped some powder into a metal mixing container, added milk plus a dash of vanilla, and used the industrial-strength blender to whip the mixture into a froth. It was delicious. That night, I triumphantly e-mailed my sister, “Tell mom that I’ve found a great way to get calcium. And it’s only 200 calories!” Even she thought that was pretty clever.
Meantime, the customers started to seriously test my will-power. Every day, people came in to choose from the endless bottles of flavorings on the shelves; ask about the weekly specials; and sometimes sample a teaspoon full of such seasonal flavors as peach, huckleberry or pistachio. The combinations we whipped up for them were both endless and mouth-watering. One man wanted a traditional banana split but with twice the usual chocolate syrup, whipped topping and nuts. A pregnant woman wanted hers done up totally in strawberry — even substituting the traditional cherry flourish with strawberry chunks. A vacationing couple from Norway, barely able to speak English, were nevertheless quite specific when it came to packing a waffle cone with both Cookies and Cream and Bubblegum ice cream flavors, and adding one shot of caramel, a shot of hazelnut and half cup of real cream to an Italian soda. Older patrons who specifically remembered soda counters from the 1940s and 50s almost unanimously asked for root beer floats. “At first I was insulted when some grandfather called me a ‘soda jerk’,” another employee confided, “until I realized it was a sincere compliment.”
Teenagers liked to order Phosphates, which are as sour as liquid Sweet Tarts, and then challenge each other to see who could suck the most through their straws before puckering, blinking hard and backing away. As for little children, they’d come charging through the front door and race each other to a favorite stool while shouting “Ice cream! We want ice cream!” And I’ll never forget one unusually slow afternoon when I’d just started mopping and suddenly, a silhouette at the front window caught my attention — or should I say a moving mass of them. Laughing and gabbing, over a dozen ladies from a local walking club came pouring into the store, heading straight for the counter and filling every available seat, table and standing space. As the only two women on duty scrambled to serve them, freezer doors began banging and lids started flying while we continued taking half-shouted orders under the roar of three mixers. That time, I could barely stifle the overwhelming urge to mix my own special Sundae, pull up a chair, and join everyone; after nearly a month on the job I simply couldn’t stand it any longer.
During clean-up, I discovered that in the midst of the chaos we’d made an extra Praline milkshake and boy, did it look good. “Go ahead,” the other coworker smiled while doing dishes, tipping her head in that direction, “it’ll be a waste to throw it out.” Reaching for a straw, I was suddenly 14 again sitting at the Tasty Freeze back home. The difference was that I got enough calcium to last a week … and a warning from Mom to watch out for the sugar when I called her later. ❖