There’s a jitney barreling down behind me as I turn into the train station. I hope the short white bus follows my lead as I pause, allowing a parade of commuters to leisurely cross the parking lot. One car ahead of me, a couple is saying good-bye. They kiss and kiss again and finally, the man in the passenger seat gets out of the car. This must be a sad parting because instead of walking towards the train, he pauses, turns around and blows kisses to the driver. This tender moment at 7:45 in the morning leaves me feeling slightly nauseous. The lovebirds part, having completely snarled traffic in the narrow asphalt corridor. Gaining the slightest momentum, a glance in the rearview mirror indicates Mr. Jitney Driver is none too pleased with the delay. Pulling up near the curb, I barely slow the car down and gently, maybe not so gently, nudge Mr. Sweet As Pie towards the door. “Get Out! There’s a jitney on my tail!” Vacation? What vacation?
The middle school crossing guard waves me through the stop sign and I’m facing the Village Ice Cream Parlour. Spelled with a “u” to conjure visions of ice cream draped in hot fudge and double scoops teetering atop sugar cones, I’m not smitten. There’s a sign suggesting I surprise Dad with an ice cream cake for Father’s Day. Cool.
My merchant parking pass allows me to park alongside the train tracks, several blocks from the bakery. Adjusting my bandana I’m dragging my clogs, thinking back to the week prior. In exquisite detail I remember every scoop of every cup of gelato I consumed. My tongue twitches in sense memory of precariously overfilled sugar cones.
My daily gelato intake during our holiday in Italy came as naturally as kaffee und kuchen had in Vienna. Not only are the displays of the frozen treats visually breathtaking, the flavors are intensely pure and not overly sweet. I wandered the gelato alphabet, starting with amarena cherry, working my way past the darkest cioccolato all’arancia (studded with candied oranges). Pausing at gianduja (hazelnuts and milk chocolate), I may have bordered on overkill with the pistachio.
Thankfully, numerous fruit flavors were available when some of us needed a moment to refresh the palate. I always found room for what should be considered health food, a scoop of intensely sweet and tart mixed berries. Surprisingly, one of the most memorable gelato moments took place on the island of Burano in a scoop of sour lemon and fresh sage. Regaining consciousness following a mild gelato coma, I remember thinking that any and all of the flavors would be ideally suited to pie.
Little has changed at the bakery since my European hiatus. This week’s cookie chatter features Memorial Day stars, graduation caps and Father’s Day ties. The phone continues to ring incessantly with requests for last minute birthday, anniversary, and holy moly cakes. Based on the thick stack of orders clipped to the double door refrigerator, my bakery cohort Rita wasn’t kidding when she forecast a weekend cake tsunami. I’ll agree there is indeed a tidal wave of buttercream on the horizon. Armed with a rolling pin, I will desperately paddle my way towards calmer seas aboard the S.S. Pie.
The walk-in is filled to capacity with fruit options; lemons to squeeze, oranges to zest and a riot of rhubarb waiting to be rid of its poisonous leaves. Plastic clamshells line the metro shelving with strawberries that are not quite in season, but if given the chance, should play nicely with the rhubarb. Eyeing two flats of blueberries, I know their fate; hidden beneath a blanket of cornmeal crumble.
In a perfect world, I would be back in Italy, agonizing over which flavor best complements my scoop of berry gelato. I can assure you, it would bear no resemblance to Carvel's Fudgie the Whale.