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Something about Icees are special

July 24, 2012

By Jay Reed
Eats One Ate

I didn’t mean to break any rules. It seemed like the right thing to do at the time. But Big Brother was watching. The scene: Buc-ee’s Truck Stop in Luling, Texas — one of the finest truck stops at which I have ever stopped a truck (or van, as is more often the case). It was like the Super-Wal-Mart-On-Steroids of truck stops, with a full-blown deli that took your order by computer screen, unique Buc-ee snack foods like Beaver Nuggets, Texas souvenirs, etc — everything one might expect at any old truck stop, but bigger, brighter, shinier and more spacious. They also had a souvenir pressed penny machine (the primary reason for my stop) and self-serve Icees. The Icee machine is where the trouble started. 

As always, I first checked the flavor selection. I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to Icees. Though I love the whole concept and frozen deliciousity of this classic treat, I am partial to the original Coca-Cola flavor. I will accept cherry as well, and honestly: I like a little of both. I’m not against the umpteen other flavors that have been developed over the half century and more that Icees have been around — I’m an advocate for variety in most situations — but if I don’t see Coke or cherry, I generally pass. 

Buc-ee’s had both (score one more for them), so I picked my cup size and began to dispense. Almost immediately I heard a deep and official-sounding voice out of nowhere say, “Mumble, mumble, mumble…ICEE.” I looked around.  Nobody was looking at me; nobody in a Buc-ee’s uniform was giving me the bad eyes. I continued dispensing, then I heard it again, this time more clearly. “Please put the plastic top on the cup before dispensing the Icee.” Whoops. The Voice was talking to me after all. I had been caught topless at the truck stop. (Besides, I should have known that I would get more in the cup with that rounded top on). So I obeyed, and continued dispensing. “Please put the plastic top on the cup before dispensing the Icee.” Aw, come on. I put the top on — give me a break!? By this time I realized that the voice was coming from a speaker somewhere above my head — obviously there was someone in the cold drink security office watching by video (a high tech truck stop indeed) and attempting to remotely correct errant dispensing behavior. After about the fourth time, I did realize it was just a recording — voiced by someone who was tired of cleaning up stickee messes from the surrounding floor, I’m sure. Whew. 

Since the late 1950’s, when Omar Knedlick put some sodas in the freezer and liked the results, Icees have been making mouths happy. There’s just something special about the mouth feel of an Icee — it’s certainly frozen, yet somehow silky in texture relative to its cousin the Slush Puppie or even the best Hawaiian style shave ice. That’s not to say that Icees don’t have their challenges, however. Brain freeze, for instance. Or that moment when it begins to settle a little and all of a sudden you’re sucking air through that funny straw with the spoon on the end, and you have to do a shakedown on the cup. And let’s talk about the straw a second — is it a stroon or a spraw? All I know is that it’s frustrating when there’s just a smidge left in the bottom, and the wide end of whatever-we-are-calling-it will not allow the last teaspoonful to be sucked up in a normal fashion. But those challenges are minor compared to the relief it brings on a hot day.

My relationship with the Icee has been more than just heat relief and a happy mouth. I have also found it to be of mild medicinal value in relieving an unhappy tummy. Back in the day, I worked at a certain pharmacy that had a giant Mart attached to it. In the early days of said Mart, before deals were made with franchises like Subway and McDonald’s, they had their own snack bar, which among other things offered a variety of basic edibles like hot dogs, pretzels and Icee’s. I didn’t really need a reason to get an Icee while at work — the fact that they exist is reason enough. But if I had a touch of upset stomach, my go-to remedy was not the pink stuff, but rather a Coke Icee and a pack of Nabs (in particular, the cheese crackers with the peanut butter filling).

I can’t explain the pharmacology of it — in fact, I should probably step out of my pharmacist shoes and make a big ‘ol disclaimer here: this is not an official recommendation from my pharmacy or the Icee company. But in that day I would get regular requests for Coke syrup to treat nausea, and who hasn’t nibbled on crackers when nothing else felt good I just put the two together for synergistic effect. I even tested my hypothesis this week on a day trip to Dothan, Ala. My tummy was not being cooperative that day, and I spotted an Icee sign just outside of Montgomery. We turned around and I went inside to confirm the Coke flavor was available and working. It was, and as a bonus they also had cherry! I got my Coke Icee with a shot of cherry, a prescription of the appropriate crackers, and began my therapy. I was on the mend in no time.
On the way back, somewhere around Clanton, Ala., I also tested my flavor preferences. Just for the readers, and entirely for research purposes, I made a dinner of two small Icees — blue raspberry and strawberry — and a double decker oatmeal crème pie. The Wife was favorable to the strawberry flavor, but mostly I just felt like I’d lost two dollars.  And for stomach upset? Blue raspberry Icee and a crème pie may not get FDA approval anytime soon.

Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at eatsoneate@gmail.com.

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