Ice cream wishes and Old Bay dreams

Maryland Independent - - Classified -

As a born-and-bred Mary­lan­der, in­doc­tri­nat­ing my New Yorker hus­band to the lo­cal way of life has been fun. And in­ter­est­ing. It’s an on­go­ing process — an ex­per­i­ment now seven-plus years along. We don’t think about our cus­toms, tra­di­tions and ac­cents (!) un­til prompted to ex­am­ine them from the out­side. Aside from the hu­mid­ity, Spence is def­i­nitely a fan.

That sticky, suf­fo­cat­ing damp­ness is rough, I’ll give him that. We scoff at West Coast folks say­ing their 100-de­gree days are a “dry heat,” but it’s true. Yes, that’s still hot — but the Ari­zona sun­shine doesn’t make you feel like you’ve jumped into a swim­ming pool in a sweater and cor­duroys.

I’m nat­u­rally warm-blooded. Also, I’m 99 per­cent sure that the ex­tra weight I’ve been car­ry­ing through two preg­nan­cies in two years has turned me into a hu­man space heater. I’m never cold. At “worst,” I’m com­fort­able — es­pe­cially jar­ring in a room full of peo­ple wrapped in Snug­gies.

At the news­pa­per, my co­work­ers and I en­gaged in good-na­tured “ther­mo­stat wars.” Given my desk was clos­est to the wall, I fre­quently ad­justed the tem­per­a­ture to my lik­ing. I’m not a mon­ster, though; I rec­og­nized when ev­ery­one else was re­ally un­com­fort­able and backed down, though nine-months along Preg Meg wasn’t as sym­pa­thetic.

My new of­fice build­ing is pretty chilly (ac­cord­ing to col­leagues, any­way). We can­not con­trol the ther­mo­stat. Be­cause I wanted to fit in and not give away what a sweaty beast I am, my move-in bags in­cluded the stan­dard cardi­gan ev­ery work­ing woman drapes over the back of her chair. It’s ac­tu­ally hi­lar­i­ous to imag­ine a cir­cum­stance in which I would wear a sweater . . . in July. Or, like, ever. But I didn’t want to ex­pose my quirks too quickly — first im­pres­sions and all that.

My hus­band is a quilt guy. He loves build­ing blan­ket forts at any time of year, and he’s bring­ing our son to the cud­dly side al­ready. I felt like a shrew the first few times Spencer wanted to snug­gle, but I would have needed ice cubes in my lap and a ceil­ing fan on high. Noth­ing good comes of an over­heated Meg. He ac­cepts that now.

It took a while for Spence to ad­just to South­ern Mary­land sum­mers. I re­mem­ber once meet­ing for a Blue Crabs game to find the man close to faint­ing. He’d ar­rived be­fore my fam­ily and, even in the shade, was de­hy­drated be­fore first pitch. We wound up re­treat­ing to his car, air con­di­tion­ing blast­ing on our faces, and waited for the sun to sink lower be­fore re­turn­ing to our seats.

We were care­ful af­ter that — and now? My New Yorker is one of us. Bet­ter than me, ac­tu­ally, be­cause Spencer can be out­side for hours in the swampy air with­out com­plain­ing. His wife, on the other hand, starts whin­ing min­utes into any out­door ac­tiv­ity from May to Oc­to­ber.

Spencer has con­verted in other ways, too, like in his new­found ap­pre­ci­a­tion — and, dare I say, love — of Old Bay Sea­son­ing. The sum­mer­time sta­ple is a fix­ture at our ta­ble, and he re­cently con­vinced me to or­der a sweet-and-sa­vory dessert — yes: dessert — that pretty much blew my mind.

The South­ern Mary­land Sun­dae: vanilla ice cream, caramel, chopped peanuts and whipped cream . . . with a heav­enly dust­ing of Old Bay.

It sounds weird. I guess it is weird. But it’s also re­ally, re­ally de­li­cious.

Texas Ribs & BBQ of­fers this treat in La Plata — a dish with leg­endary Twin Kiss soft serve that at­tracts fol­low­ers young and old. The Old Bay-sprin­kled sun­dae has be­come a fa­vorite. Sweet, salty, sa­vory: the best of all worlds. It’s ad­dic­tive.

Though Spence and I try not to eat our feel­ings, we of­ten drown our wor­ries in su­gar. We ran er­rands with the kids on Satur­day morn­ing and, as ex­pected, were deal­ing with two melt­downs by the time we were ready to head back to the house.

Oliver and Hadley both fell asleep min­utes into the short drive home. I don’t know about your kids, but we should hang “Do Not Dis­turb” signs from our kids’ shoul­ders. Hadley is a baby, so she goes with the flow. But 20 min­utes of a nap for Ol­lie is no nap at all, and that kid still needs a snooze. Oth­er­wise? Grab your pa­tience. And the Advil.

So I passed the turn for our road. The driv­ing rain of the night be­fore had slowed to a pass­ing shower; we had noth­ing to do, nowhere we had to be. I ap­pre­ci­ate aim­less days so much more now — and given we had no time crunch, my hus­band and I looked at each other in the word­less di­a­logue shared by the mar­ried and ex­hausted. Ice cream?

We’ve cruised along U.S. 301 more times than I can count, try­ing to let Oliver (and, now, his sis­ter) sleep. Af­ter fol­low­ing Ol­lie as he wheeled a suit­case around a de­part­ment store for 30 min­utes while I “browsed,” we’d all worked up an ap­petite. Spence walked the equiv­a­lent of a mile and a half just chas­ing him — lit­er­ally — be­tween the aisles. My nerves were shot from the tantrum that fol­lowed. Def­i­nitely dessert time. I’m a pretty ad­ven­tur­ous eater, but I don’t know that I would have tried the South­ern Mary­land Sun­dae if it hadn’t been highly rec­om­mended by my sis­ter. Spencer was game, and our first time de­vour­ing this lus­cious lo­cal con­coc­tion was the start of a tra­di­tion.

We go all the time now. Too of­ten, prob­a­bly. But I don’t need much coax­ing to let the ba­bies sleep while we eat, so this has be­come our respite: qui­etly dig­ging into desserts while our chil­dren snore in the back­seat, Oliver obliv­i­ous to what he’s miss­ing out on.

I used to feel bad about this. Guilty, even.

Noth­ing more whipped cream can’t cure.

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