Ice Cream and Hand-Me-Downs


Carvel Ice Cream. I haven’t had it in years and don’t know if I’d enjoy it as much as I used to since I met passionfruit at Villar and old cheese at Eslava — among the other great and unusual artisan ice creams here in Sevilla. But, when I was a kid, I absolutely loved Carvel ice cream. My favorite was a vanilla Brown Bonnet cone — soft-serve vanilla ice cream, quickly dipped in chocolate that set to a hard shell. I know you can now buy that stuff in a jar at the supermarket, but I’m sure it’s not the same. At least not for me.

Tom Carvel founded the company in Connecticut in 1934 and was famous for doing his own advertising. In the ’60s, he was still doing what I thought were really awful radio and TV spots. He ended many of them in his very gravelly voice with what I found to be a pathetic-sounding whine: “Please, buy my ice cream. Thank you.” But, he’s credited with being the “father of franchising” and was also referred to as “patriarch of the world’s biggest mom and pop ice cream parlor.”


I didn’t even realize Carvel was still in business until The Dowager Duchess and I were driving back after a perfect evening of tea and delicious organic freshly baked zucchini/chocolate cake at the home of her good friends, and we came upon the Carvel store on Coney Island Avenue. We would sometimes visit as a family and I liked going there for a Brown Bonnet when I first got my license (driver’s license, that is; my ice cream license is a hereditary privilege passed to me by The Duchess, who could live contentedly on ice cream and only ice cream). It’s not the same store. But, it’s in the same spot, and it’s about eight times the size. Now, you can actually walk inside. And they have freezer cases filled with ice cream cakes and other desserts and toppings. Those didn’t exist when I was a kid or a young adult. All the store had was a walk-up window… and delicious soft-serve ice cream that you could buy for less than 50 cents.


Being an ice cream gourmand, The Dowager Duchess preferred Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor on Nostrand Avenue (and so did I). The first Jahn’s opened in The Bronx in 1897. They had an amazingly huge menu, which included “The Kitchen Sink.” At the time, it was served in an aluminum bowl (not much smaller than a sink) filled with every topping and whipped cream, and I can’t remember how many scoops of every kind of ice cream you could want. It was said to serve eight. I shared it once with three friends. (At the time, we all wished we had had four more friends!) There’s only one Jahn’s remaining (in Queens) and the Kitchen Sink now costs $51.95. I’m sure it was well under $10 when I was a kid. (And as long as I’m so sure of everything: To get there, I’m sure we had to walk two miles, uphill both ways — even when my father drove.)


A couple of times, I had what was called the “Boilermaker and Helper,” which was meant to serve two or three people. That was — I’m again sure — less than $2.  But, I’ve been told by The Duchess that (although I didn’t know it at the time) going to Jahn’s was a splurge for our family of five. My father isn’t here to disagree, so I’ll have to take her word for it. I do know we went there often enough for me (at the time at least) to have memorized the menu.

MOM: Mama used to leave two nickels on the kitchen counter, so Matilda and I could go to the movies. Even that was a tremendous hardship. 

DAD: [Dramatic eye-roll.] 

MOM: My family was so poor, I never owned a new pair of shoes. I had to wear hand-me-downs from my three older sisters. And they had much bigger feet! 

DAD: You had shoes?!?


Author: Moving with Mitchell

From Brooklyn, New York; to North Massapequa; back to Brooklyn; Brockport, New York; back to Brooklyn... To Boston, Massachusetts, where I met Jerry... To Marina del Rey, California; Washington, DC; New Haven and Guilford, Connecticut; San Diego, San Francisco, Palm Springs, and Santa Barbara, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Irvine, California; Sevilla, Spain. And Fuengirola, Málaga..

34 thoughts on “Ice Cream and Hand-Me-Downs”

  1. During my first year of college, the second job where I didn't have to clean floors or bedpans in a hospital was at Baskin Robbins. So that it turned me into a Baskin Robbins ice cream man and to this day, to be honest…I don't like ice cream.
    But I will agree with you that those ice creams not just in Sevilla but all of Spain are of outstanding quality and taste like ice cream should.

  2. Minnesota had Farrell's, whose Kitchen Sink was actually called the Lalapalooza (well before the concert event). It was enormous, like the Sink, and I wanted it with all my heart…


    1. Pearl:
      While looking for Jahn's ice cream photos yesterday, I found an Orlando-based ice cream place (Beaches & Cream) that has their own "kitchen sink" served in what really looks like a kitchen sink (faucet and handles); then there's Jaxon's in Dania Beach, Florida, that claims to be the originator of the "Kitchen Sink" and even has a registered trademark for it! And here I thought Jahn's was the place!

  3. Few things have the ability to transport me back in time like food. The taste and smell of certain tasty treats can send me hurling back to pleasant moments in my childhood. I think it's the same with you and this ice cream.

  4. During the Brooklyn College years, we used to go to Jahn's on Nostrand on Friday nights, after visiting SUBO (student union building organization). Those were the days when I could eat two sundaes and not gain weight…….(sigh)!

  5. 1. They don't make dresses like that anymore.
    2. My birthday is tomorrow and every year I get an all chocolate Carvel ice cream cake all to myself!!!

  6. The conversation between your mom and dad is so cute. I remember hearing of the famous Jahns, I never thought to spell it with an H. Someone told me back in the day if you ordered that Kitchen Sink and could finish it, you didn't have to pay for it. I have no idea if that's true or not.

    I don't like ice cream, I never have. I remember Italian ices though. In the white squeeze cup. Sold at every Pizzaria. I liked those. It's funny, the only thing I ever miss about Manhattan is food.

    1. Victor:
      Oh, how I loved Italian ices in those squeeze cups! Lemon was my favorite; or as it was called "lemonice." It's not the same when it has to be scraped like a fuzzy ice cube.

      Your comment about the free Kitchen Sink if you could finish it yourself does ring a bell… I guess you and I will never now know.

      But, I'm very disappointed in you for not liking ice cream. You're going to have to work really hard now to regain my respect.

  7. Oh, I would have SO ordered that 'Kitchen Sink' along with a few of my friends!!! I'd have to save for a month to pay for it, but it sure would be worth it!! I remember going down town to the Met (Metropolitan) not the other one in NYC!!, and getting the biggest Banana Split there for $.39!!!
    Am I old?
    What a beautiful photo of your mother, Mitch. A beautiful lady! Cute photo of your Dad too.

    1. Jim:
      I used to love banana splits. Emack and Bolio's in Boston had one called the "Banana Barge" served in a plastic boat. I couldn't eat half of it now!

      My mother was and is a beauty (and still doesn't know it). My father was always a cutie… and always had a punchline.

  8. I am passionate about icecream. Should you or any of your readers ever get to this side of the world I can confidently claim that the best icecream in THE WHOLE WORLD is made in a tiny modest little shop in the suburb of Moera called "Zany Zeus". So modest they don't even have a website.
    I have to drive three hours to get there but it's worth it!

  9. We were so poor that I never had ice-cream as a child. We had to wait for the first frosts of winter and then go out and lick the cows. Luxury. Aye, we were poor but we knew how to have fun.

  10. Carvel!! I haven't been in years! We used to go to the one on Route 22 in NJ, near Plainfield– only place that had both soft and hard ice cream. I always (always) got hard vanilla 🙂

    I had a student once (out here in Missouri, far away from Carvel Ice Cream) whose name was Carvel. I was all excited to tell him about Carvel ice cream. He thought I was nuts :))

  11. This reminds me of an episode of the Bob Newhart show from years ago.
    He and his friends go into an ice cream place where they have elaborate concoctions with cutsie names. He notices that when these things are served at neighboring tables, the servers gather and chant about it to the customer. To avoid embarrassment, he orders a single scoop of vanilla. When his group is served, all the others get their ice cream without comment but the servers gather around him and chant, "Single scooper, single scooper, this man is a party pooper!"

  12. So there is this really awesome ice cream chain (okay I think there are two shops in total) in Sevilla called "Rayas." You guys have to check it out! Amazing ice cream… Have you been there before or heard of it?

    1. Brittany:
      We've been to the Rayas on Calle Almirante Apodaca three times and they weren't very friendly (but the ice cream WAS really good). Haven't tried the one on San Pablo but pass it all the time. It looks nice, though. My favorite (so far) is the Villar near Puerta del Carne — the best variety of fresh and unusual flavors; great staff and the owners are usually there and are both wonderful. But it's not very convenient from where we live, so we now more often go to just off La Alameda de Hercules. It's known as "the Italian" place. Really good and really pleasant staff.

    2. Wow! You know your Rayas! 🙂 We only made it to Rayas once this summer since we were constantly traveling. The one between Plaza de la Encarnación and Ponce de Leon is great! Not sure what that little area is called. Now it's jamón season! We spent Sunday afternoon cutting jamón and putting the slices in airtight bags (…"envasar en vacío"…Sorry. My English has gone to the shits…)

  13. I love love love those old pics of your parents! (That is your MOm in the amazing dress, right?)

    Growing up in Toronto, I used to see Carvel ice cream ads on TV and was jealous because we couldn't get it in Canada.

    And this is all very timely, since Gordon is in the kitchen making ice cream right now.

    1. Knatolee:
      Yep, that's my mother! I really enjoy the old pics, so truly appreciate that you don't mind my sharing them. (There are lots more to come.)

      I haven't had ice cream in DAYS! Tell Gordon to save some for me. I'll be right over (It should only take about 48 hours).

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