Ice cream wishes and Old Bay dreams
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.