Thursday, January 16, 2014

31 Flavors and the Rules of Hospitality

 Rosebud was my first American friend.  She offered to give me rides to school when I first arrived at the Incarnate Word Academy in Houston, Texas back in 1978.  She kept giving me rides in her little green car; even after others lost interest in the only Iranian that had ever attended the Catholic, all-girl school.  When Rosebud won class treasurer, she invited a few of us to celebrate by having ice cream.  That was my first experience with Baskin Robbins and its 31 flavors.  You have to understand that growing up in Iran, ice cream was sold from late spring until the end of summer.  You could not just go to the store and buy ice cream in the middle of the winter.  Who would want ice cream when it is cold outside?  No one.  No one should.  It is forbidden.  Also, ice cream came in three flavors:  Vanilla, chocolate and strawberry.  What other flavors could there be?  So you can imagine my surprise at the assortment of flavors at Baskin Robbins.  Maybe not 31 exactly, but definitely more than three!  I don’t know why but I chose mint chocolate chip.  The chocolate part I am sure was my attempt to stick to the familiar and the mint and the green color, my leap into a new adventure.  Mint chocolate chip remained my favorite flavor for a long time.

When it came time to pay for the ice cream, I discovered another American novelty.  Even though we were celebrating Rosebud’s success, we each had to pay for our own ice cream.  I was not prepared.  In the Persian culture, when something good comes your way, a new job, a promotion, a new house, a new baby, (getting elected class treasurer, if such a thing existed), you invite your friends to celebrate and treat them with “sweets”, figuratively and literary.  At the least, you bring a box of pastries to share with everyone.  At the most, you kill a sheep and throw a party to share the meat.  I was shocked to find out that was not the custom here!  When it came time to pay, I had to scrounge around in my wallet and I think I even had to borrow a few quarters from Rosebud to pay for my mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Thirty five years in America and I have learned to exercise my right to eat ice cream any time I want.  I rarely choose vanilla, chocolate or strawberry.  After mint-chocolate chip, my favorite flavor is jamoca almond fudge.  But, if I am celebrating something, even if it is just your friendship, I exercise my right to treat. ~Susan.

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