This is a happy story about how, sometimes, you can go home again.
When I was a small child (this would have been a good 45 years or so in the mid-1960s), there was a style of ice cream cone with a sort of top cap of solidified chocolate and chopped peanuts on it. They were sold under the brand name Nutty Buddy, but I think it had imitators as well. I didn’t care; I was barely aware of the brand and I liked them all. Ice cream trucks were more common then than they are now, and when I heard the bell on one of them ringing I knew what I wanted. A Nutty Buddy if I could get one, or an ice-cream sandwich if I couldn’t.
About a year ago my wife and I were out in Michigan for sword training, and one fine day we and Heather the swordmistress rustled up some cold sandwiches and drinks and went for a picnic lunch in a local park. It was a lovely sunny afternoon, and the food was good, and the company was good and – what was that? I heard what could only be the bell of an ice-cream truck! I think it had been literally decades since my last one; I instantly gave chase.
Now, Eric in hot pursuit of an ice cream truck is doubtless a rather comical sight. I have cerebral palsy and don’t run well, tending to galumph across the landscape in what I’m sure looks like a ludicrously slow and inefficient manner. Fortunately, I am fast enough to catch up with an ice-cream truck that doesn’t actually want to outrun its potential clientele. I caught it about a block away.
I discovered as my much more fleet-footed companions caught up with me that the truck did indeed have the object of my desire and immediately bought one. Alas, it wasn’t very good. Cardboardish cone, tasteless ice-cream, and some sort of advanced chocolate substitute on the top. The chopped peanuts were OK. There’s not much you can do to ruin chopped peanuts.
It was one of those cliched moments when you discover you can’t go home again. Either my tastebuds had become more discriminating over the years or the quality of the ingredients had been sacrificed to cut costs – I’m actually betting on both. This was not the stuff of my childhood memories. And so small!
But I said this story has a happy ending. Fast-forward another year to a few days ago. My wife and I had just eaten dinner at a favorite local restaurant of ours with one minor flaw: the desserts they have there are way too sugary and heavy for my taste. That’s generally true at restaurants these days, but I had a fallback plan. We had a pretty decent grade of vanilla ice cream in the freezer at home, and a few days previously we’d bought some Magic Shell on a lark.
Magic Shell, for those of you unfamiliar, is a eutectic mixture of liquid chocolate and vegetable oil that tastes just like regular chocolate sauce and is liquid at room temperature, but is engineered to freeze and solidify at the serving temperature of ice cream. It then becomes slightly chewy in a rather pleasant way.
So we’re tooling home and I had a thought. Ice cream cone! Ha ha! Cathy approved, and we grabbed some from a passing supermarket. When we got home, I figured this was worth doing right. So I built my cone carefully, waited long enough for the Magic Shell to solidify, bit into it – and discovered with a rush of surprise that I had exactly recreated the way a Nutty Buddy is supposed to taste and feel. Excelsior!
Here’s how you can do it yourself:
Start with a suitable quantity of Breyer’s vanilla ice cream. Breyer’s used to be extremely good, and though the quality has suffered in recent years due to cost-cutting it’s still better than average.
Get your hands on some old-fashioned waffle cones. We got some made by the Joy Cone Company in the original 1904 style resembling a rolled-up zalabia waffle; any similar product should do. Do not cheat yourself with the modern styrofoam-light flat-bottomed variety sometimes called a “kiddie cup”; those suck.
Finely dice some Planter’s cocktail peanuts – a teaspoonful will do.
Pack ice cream into the cone with a spoon. Don’t try to mound a big scoop of the stuff on the top; the effect works better if you end up with dense-packed ice cream roughly level with the cone top.
Drizzle Magic Shell on the exposed surface of the ice cream. Spread chopped nuts on top of it. Add another thin layer of Magic Shell on top of the nuts.
Important! Do not eat this immediately, however tempted you may be – the texture won’t be right. Wait for the phase change in your eutectic chocolate sauce, which will usually happen in 30 to 45 seconds. You will know it’s ready when it is no longer glossy-liquid in appearance but a dull and slightly lighter brown.
If you try to lick this confection in the way you would an ordinary ice-cream cone you will not have an entirely satisfactory experience. Eat it with your front teeth, biting off sections of cone along with the topping and ice-cream filling. The textural contrasts of waffle pastry, solidified chocolate, nuts, and the smoothness of the ice cream are very much the point.
And that’s the Nutty Buddy, reloaded. Enjoy!