• Yes, But What Does Karl Ove Knausgaard Think of Ice Cream?

    Next Up, Kittens and Cake

    Every year at the start of summer the ice cream manufactur­ers launch new kinds of ice cream, and the same law applies to them as to all plant and animal species, the survival of the fittest. If a new kind of ice cream is sold in sufficiently large quantities, production will be continued the following season; if it doesn’t catch on, it is discontinued and never reappears. All these new ice cream sticks, bars and cones have to compete with old ones that for decade after decade have proved competitive, and in this way a manufacturer’s assortment of ice creams is continually honed, and includes niches and pockets which only the fittest can fill. In this sense, Norway’s two long- standing ice cream cones, the Kroneis—plain, milk-based cones which got their name at a time when they cost one Norwegian krone each, one strawberry-flavored and the other chocolate- flavored—can be seen as survivors, which isn’t so strange, since their taste is uncomplicated and at the same time they are easy to hold, they are neither very small nor very large. When they come straight from the freezer the ice cream inside the cones is hard, with sharp edges around the circular plane on top, and one can choose whether to lick them—thus round­ing the edges and slowly making the ice cream more plum-shaped, a process that is speeded up if the weather is warm and the ice cream melts, often dripping down the sides of the cone, which then has to be assiduously licked off—or to bite into them, which is quicker. But since for many the whole point of ice cream is to prolong the experience of eat­ing, the latter provides no obvious advantage—except for avoiding the stickiness and mess which a prolonged eating session often entails, especially in the case of the chocolate Kroneis, since the chocolate also melts. Another way to attack the Kroneis is to—halfway through the licking pro­cess, by which time the ice cream has become soft and yielding, in some places almost like cream—simply bite off the bottom of the cone, thus creating a hole, through which the ice cream can be sucked out. The other long-standing survivor beneath Norwegian ice cream counters is the Gull­pinne, the gold stick. As the name says, it is an ice cream stick. It is milk-based and covered with chocolate, with bits of krokan, caramelized sugar with butter and almonds in it, sprinkled on the coating, and there is also a layer of choc­olate in the ice cream itself. This particular combination—ice cream, chocolate covering, krokan, stick—also has some­thing basic about it, an air of solidity and unostentatiousness which I believe many parents select for their children to dampen the sense of extravagance that buying ice cream is fraught with, since it is an unnecessary luxury, unhealthy and devoid of nutritional value, which the Gullpinne, by virtue of its functionality and basic simplicity, in a certain sense tones down. My problem with ice cream when I was growing up was simply to choose the right kind. We didn’t get ice cream very often, so making the wrong choice was, at least when I was around seven, eight, nine years old, downright catastrophic. Did I dare to pick a new kind of li­quorice ice cream, for example? I liked liquorice, but did it taste good with ice cream? And the new kind that was called Kirsebærpinne, cherry stick, and was Gullpinne’s brother, exactly the same except for the ice cream being cherry-flavored, would it taste good enough? I did taste it, and for a long time it was my favorite ice cream, but then it disap­peared, it was withdrawn from the market, and its brother, the solid and sensible Gullpinne, was alone once again, along with the two other survivors, Båtis (ice cream in a boat-shaped wafer) and Sandwich. But the most difficult choice of all was the one that had to be made in places where they sold soft ice cream, which is to say in town, for there they also had ice cream by the scoop, and who can say what is better, soft or scooped ice cream?

    “My preferred solution to the problem of all the different toppings is usu­ally to ask for two.”

    They each have their big and obvious advantages. The strong point of scooped ice cream is the number of flavors. A well stocked ice cream stand can have as many as 20 different flavors. You can choose one, two or three scoops, which the salesperson shapes with a scoop and places in a cone-shaped wafer (or in a paper cup, but is anyone really stupid enough to choose carton over biscuit?), and the possible combinations are legion—one chocolate, one pistachio and one rum and raisin, for example; or two chocolate and one pistachio; or one pistachio, one strawberry and one vanilla; or one choc­olate, one vanilla and one krokan; or one pistachio, one rum and raisin and one krokan—which is a difficult decision in and of itself, not least because the choice must at times be made on the spot, within a fraction of a second, something I still, with the benefit of more than 40 years’ experience, find rather challenging. Then add to that the possibility of choosing soft ice cream instead, which isn’t an uncompli­cated matter either, for soft ice cream can be dipped in melted chocolate or rolled in chocolate powder or krokan or chopped nuts or chips of Daim chocolate or multicolored sugar balls. To me, soft was long the king of ice cream, it is the only ice cream that is almost like whipped cream, but with its quality of being ice cream intact. And my preferred solution to the problem of all the different toppings is usu­ally to ask for two, namely chocolate powder and krokan. What sometimes happens then is that they roll it first in chocolate, then in krokan, so that I get two layers, at other times they press one side into the chocolate powder and the other side into the krokan. One might think that my children would follow in my footsteps, that they would understand that the choices I make are the result of long years of experi­ence, but they go their own ways. My son, for example, often selects sorbet as one of the flavors of his scooped ice cream—which he prefers to soft—something I have never once done in my life, not even considered. My middle daughter is not above asking for soft ice cream in a paper cup and eating it with a spoon. What I choose is of no conse­quence to them. Often they say, “But Daddy, didn’t you say you weren’t going to eat ice cream and sweets any more?” “I did say that,” is my answer then, “but the weather is so nice today.” “You ate ice cream yesterday too, and then it was rain­ing,” they say. “It’s just an excuse you use.” “Oh well,” I say. “Why shouldn’t you eat ice cream and goodies?” the youngest one asks. “Because it makes you fat when you get to be as old as I am. You lot can eat as much as you want, but I can’t.” “It’s true that you’ve become fat,” the eldest one says, she is as thin as a rake no matter what she eats. We were sitting at a table outside the kiosk at Borrby beach, a wide, fine-grained and almost pure white sandy beach, it was perfectly still, the sky was luminously blue, the glare of the sand was so strong one could hardly look at it, and the sea was as smooth as a mirror and calm. “So can I have another ice cream, then?” the youngest said. “Since I can eat as much as I want?” “No, you can’t,” I said. “Why not?” he said. “Because you are a child, and because you are under my control. But I can eat two ice cream cones,” I said. “No, you can’t,” the eldest said. “Oh yes, I can,” I said, stuffed what was left of my wafer into my mouth, stood up and walked over to the kiosk, bought a pistachio cone and walked back to where they were sitting. They looked on in shock and consternation as I proceeded to eat it. Two ice cream cones in a row, in their world that was something totally unheard of. How come I never thought of that before? I thought as I sat there eating and gazing out at the sea with the children’s eyes fixed on me. Why have I never eaten two ice cream cones in a row before?

    The children still remember that time, even though it was three years ago. To them it was a demonstration of force, since they didn’t get another ice cream no matter how much they nagged me. To me it was a joke, although the joke also had a hint of seriousness to it, since it made me understand that I really could do whatever I wanted. That I used that freedom to eat two ice cream cones in a row also gave me a thing or two to think about.

    karl ove

    From SUMMER by Karl Ove Knausgaard, published by Penguin Press, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright (c) 2016 by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Translation copyright (c) 2018 by Ingvild Burkey.

    Karl Ove Knausgaard
    Karl Ove Knausgaard
    Karl Ove Knausgaard's first novel, Out of the World, was the first ever debut novel to win The Norwegian Critics’ Prize and his second, A Time to Every Purpose Under Heaven, was widely acclaimed. A Death in the Family, the first of the My Struggle cycle of novels, was awarded the prestigious Brage Award. The My Struggle cycle has been heralded as a masterpiece wherever it appears.

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