No Time for Portland's Good Humor Man
The first day that the thermometer hit 70, I heard the jingle of the Good Humor ice cream truck making its rounds throughout the neighborhood. You hear it first. Then you see it slowly turn the corner, creeping down the street at 10 miles per hour.
I suppose I should be grateful that Portland is one of the few cities that still has an ice cream truck. How quaint, right? But every time I see it, I feel let down by its offerings. It’s high fructose corn syrup on a stick. I call it the poison truck. What chemical warfare is going on with those red, white, and blue rocket pops?
As always, when I don’t like something, I think of how it could be better. This is a quality that eventually will drive all my friends bananas. Until then, I rant.
At first, I simply wanted our local Maple’s Gelato or Beal’s Ice Cream to operate their own truck. Fresh ingredients would be a huge improvement. I could call it a victory and gain ten pounds. Then I thought, why stop with ice cream?
Portland needs an entire Buy Local truck of items such as ice cream, bread, dairy, produce and beer. Imagine a truck painted by a local artist with a jingle produced by local musicians. Did I mention it would run on biodiesel?
You could get an almond croissant from Standard Baking while still in your jammies. In the midst of making dinner and notice you need a tomato? Have no fear, here comes the Buy Local truck doing its dusk run, selling vegetables from neighboring farms. Out of coffee? No problem, flag down the truck and buy a bag of beans when you hear that ram-a-lama-ding-dong. While you’re at it, throw in some half-and-half cream from Smiling Hill Farm. It would be like a mini-Rosemont Market on wheels.
The driver could plan a route around the life cycle of the neighborhoods. East End and West End on weekend mornings, Deering on weekday mornings. Afternoons would be spent at ball fields and playgrounds. Evenings would be the beer and bread run to all locations. There would be trips on the car ferry out to Peaks Island.
I remember when the Portland Public Market first opened. The premise was that you would not need to go to six different stores to get what you wanted, it would all be under one roof. Unfortunately, the vendors felt second tier, I still hit six stores and the Public Market went bust. (I am pleased to report that the Public House emerged from that experiment, with the best vendors banding together to share a space in Monument Square.)
If I’m dreaming about moving past ice-cream and making it a mobile mini-mart, I’d like to take it one last step. I’d like to partner with artists to sell a different limited edition print each month, sold out of the truck window while driving up and down Congress Street during the First Friday Art Walk. We could serve Allagash, Geary’s and Maine Mead along with cheese from Silver Moon Creamery.
Granted, it could only operate from May through October, but I think it’s a worthy endeavor. Keep your ears peeled.
Jessica Tomlinson lives — and dreams — in Portland.