Comfort Me With Ice Cream and FNL

It had been one of those days — flat, disappointing, lonely.

My husband and son were off somewhere on the Gulf Coast fishing and drinking beer. They were having a great time, my husband reported by phone, as water lapped noisily in the background. They might be fishing from the pier all night, he said. It took that kind of dedication to catch the big one.

Well, great. Just great. How nice to know that someone else in the universe was having good time. Not wanting to be a royally bad sport, I tried not to root for the fishes.

But, anyway, as Cliff Barnes once said in a particularly memorable episode of “Dallas,” I needed to think of myself for a change. Since I’d had a lousy day, I required something strong. It looked to me as if it was an All-Ice Cream Dinner night. (This is what you come to when you realize ice cream is practically the only vice you have left in life besides swearing, Nicorette and margaritas.)

I trekked to one of our little downtown grocery stores, skulked around for a few minutes, then approached the counter with two pints of Jeni’s ice cream.

If you’ve never encountered Jeni’s ice cream, then you should be advised it inspires an unreasoning, cultlike devotion and costs a small fortune. I told the two young women behind the counter that I hadn’t been able to choose between the brown butter almond brittle and salty caramel, so had gotten both. (That was a big lie, of course. I’d planned to get two pints from the beginning. I just wasn’t sure which two.)

“I’ve had a bad day,” I explained to them. They both nodded sympathetically.

“Good idea,” one of them said, nodding approvingly. “I love Jeni’s.”

“Go for it!” the second one said. “It’s the best. You deserve it.”

“You want a spoon?” the first asked.

I said no, I was headed straight home and, even though it was an emergency, probably wouldn’t need a spoon en route. I left the store buoyed by intergenerational bonding (those two young women understood exactly what I needed), and walked the few short blocks back to the condo in warm temperatures that would melt the ice cream to a perfect consistency, I predicted.

Once back, I sat down on my favorite couch with a big bowl of ice cream and turned to a video stream of my favorite TV series, “Friday Night Lights.” The familiar, comforting music came on, accompanied by visuals of the green fields and warm and happy faces, the stadium lights, the ever-shifting community of young people, the long, empty stretches of rural roads.

If you don’t know “Friday Night Lights,” you’re missing something even better and richer than Jeni’s salted caramel. The series envelops you into a high school world of youthful missteps and yearnings, painful setbacks and early promise — but more than anything, it’s about the lives in a small town community.

The two FNL leads (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton as Eric and Tami Taylor) are so appealing and authentic and quietly decent that, after watching several seasons, you secretly want to be adopted by them. Bad days wouldn’t be so isolating with them as your parents, even if they are actors and a generation younger than you, the 62-year-old orphan. (I know I can get a little carried away by portrayals and emotion, having once had to restrain myself from thanking an Abraham Lincoln impersonator for saving the union. But stop quibbling. I am still quite upset about the whole Ford’s Theatre incident and require my illusions.)

But, anyway. Ice cream melts unless you eat it quickly, bad days pass after midnight, and fishermen come home with a single, rather small trout to grill. In the meantime, you find your comfort food in every form you can get it and wait for the grayness to pass.

(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)

For a related post, please read what women really, really want

24 comments… add one
  • I haven’t enjoyed Jeni’s yet, but I certainly do miss FNL. I believe it was the finest serial drama on TV.

  • Just passed through some gray days myself. No Jeni’s, but Blue Bell homemade vanilla with fresh strawberries was a welcomed spirit lifter. That and reading an article on ways to reduce your blood pressure naturally. The list included eating dark chocolate and drinking fruit tea with hibiscus listed first in the ingredients. How great is that?

    Thanks for making a gray day a laughing matter. Your gray-day saga was as spirit-lifting as dark chocolate. Well, almost.

  • Cindy A Link

    Skip the ice cream and go straight for the wine, Ruth!

  • FNL is my favorite TV show ever. Kyle Chandler is my TV husband and has been since he was on Homefront. I am so sad FNL is over. But at least I know that clear eyes, full hearts can’t lose. And sometimes I need to eat an embarrassing quantity of ice cream too. Two flavors makes perfect sense to me. Wish I had been there to share the bad day with you (and the FNL and ice cream)!

  • I know the power of Jeni’s–I just polished off a pint of Queen City Cayenne with my family. And we have a Jeni’s store about 15 minutes away.

  • Sounds like you turned a bad day into a good evening! Nice post~

  • Sheryl Link

    Sounds like the perfect way to spend an evening. Ice cream instantly puts me in a good mood, too!

  • merr Link

    Ah, ice cream! Is it wrong that sometimess–sometimes–something eaten can be such a sweet comfort?!

  • merr Link

    Is it wrong that sometimess–sometimes–something eaten can be such a sweet comfort?!

  • Oh, I was just telling someone today that I need to lie in bed all day watching TV (though I’m not sure my TV would be up to your standards – I need really, really bad TV for really, really bad days – we’re talking Kardashians or Housewives). I will look for some Jeni’s ice cream to accompany, though if I can’t find it, we have Moomer’s up here in the north woods. That will work nicely, too.

  • I’m very happy you mentioned How Few Vices you have left. It caused me to sit and consider how many I have left, and believe me, I am even better than you. (no Margaritas). So now I feel quite able to get some ice cream when I shop on Friday. I can’t think of any top shelf ice creams except maybe Ben and Jerry, Edies, but to me flavor is almost more important. Maple Nut is it!
    I can hardly weight for Friday! (get it?)_


  • Cindy A, I went in to buy Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and left the store with a bottle of Cabernet, popcorn and dark chocolate covered almonds. Bad girl, yep I am, and then I put on the silliest movie ever, “Arthur”… I fell in love with old Dudley in that movie. That laugh, that silly sense of humor, the smile, the soft eyes, the gimpy leg… I think I ended the day just right. By the way, Ruth, several folks told me the day was heavy for them, too. They couldn’t figure out why either. It is what it is.

  • I’ve been having a week like the day you described. Please send Jenn’s ice cream. Immediately!

  • I’m pretty sure we don’t have Jeni’s here, but my bad day fixes do sometimes consist of Ben and Jerry’s, the gooey chocolate brownie one, or my new favorite, Bluebell’s red velvet cake, which takes me back to happier birthdays in my growing distant youth since this was always the cake I requested. I’m glad you had your favorite television series as well. I tried FNL, but it was too much about football for my tastes. My all time fave was darker, “Six Feet Under.” 🙂

  • I too have pretty much whittled my vices down to swearing. So I treat it as an artform these days.

  • So sorry to hear you had a bad day. Hope the ice cream lifted your spirits! Love to you!

  • I love this post, not just because ice cream is my comfort vice of choice as well, but because I’m an obsessive diehard fan of Friday Night Lights myself. What an incredible world they created, with characters you want to invite home to dinner. In my family we’ve compiled a series of quotes from Eric Taylor’s rallying speeches; we dream of putting together a book of short inspiring quotes under the title What Would Coach Taylor Do?

  • Jeni’s ice cream sounds like the right solution for your lonely funk. Dark chocolate is my opiate of choice.

  • I love ice cream. I like to eat it straight out of carton with a fork while standing at the kitchen counter. For certainly you consume less with a fork. I have never heard of Jeni’s – though I never had heard of Blue Bell either till I was a freshman in college in Texas many years ago. A dear friend introduced me to BBell’s Cookies and Cream and we sat on the floor of the dorm room and ate out of the paper carton with spoons. Who needs to worry about using a fork when you are 18?

  • Ice cream does it for me, too. Was up in Boston for 2 days and splurged on Toscaninni’s.

  • I completely understand the healing effects of icecream! I haven’t heard of the Jeni’s brand before but have my own brand of salty caramel that I love. I can’t think of the brand name which means I’ll have to stop and buy some so I can report back to you. 😉

  • I am so hungry for ice cream right now. Thank you. We don’t have Jeni’s but we have some awesome Snoqualmie Ice Cream. I’m going to see if they have salted caramel.

  • Great blog. I mentioned it on my blog today.

    Bean’s Pat: Comfort Me With Ice Cream Although circumstances may be different, I can relate, although for me it’s Ben and Jerry’s (Anywhere), Farr’s (Utah), or Blue Bell (Texas) that provides the comfort.

    *This pat-on-the-back recognition is merely this wandering/wondering old broad’s way of bringing attention to a blog I enjoyed – and thought perhaps my readers might, too. June 9,

  • Sounds like a perfectly comforting way to end a disappointing day. Onward…

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