Soft Ideas

I couldn’t wait to celebrate my sweetheart’s 60th birthday this year. Tom and I were driving to Zion National Park for a week full of adventure. We left at six a.m., but it didn’t feel like our “vacay” really started until noon when we spotted a Frosty King in Bakersfield. With a large painted picture on the building of a brown-skinned king adorned in crown and robe holding up a hamburger and fries, I knew I had to stop there.

Wherever he goes, Tom likes to offer his suggestions for how entrepreneurs should run their businesses. Once a business owner himself, he has tons of ideas. I find it a bit embarrassing, but sometimes Tom really finds a kindred spirit. Nassar, the Yemeni-American owner of Frosty King was one such soul.

Tom launched into his idea of introducing coffee and mocha-flavored soft-serve to the menu. “You could be the only one in Bakersfield to serve that flavor. Everyone loves coffee,” Tom pitched. “You’ll make a lot more money.”

Nassar listened intently. As Tom was talking, Nassar pulled the liquid soft-serve mix out of the stainless steel, walk-in refrigerator. I explained to Tom how it gets poured into the Taylor-made machine, which freezes it into soft-serve ice cream. I’m an expert, having spent a summer in college working at a Foster’s Freeze. Tom told Nassar he could make super-strong espresso and add it to the ice cream mix. While they were talking, Nassar whipped up a special mocha shake for Tom. He proudly presented it to his earnest customer before Tom’s pitch was even over. Tom tasted it and swooned.

Then Nassar prepared my order. He dipped the chocolate soft-serve in the chocolate dip sauce, not once, but twice, right into the can. The cone surfaced tall and proud, with a double-layer skin of dark chocolate. It did what it has always done: the chocolate solidified immediately over the soft-serve, like magic. It brought me back to my childhood, when going to the non-modern fast food joints in the ‘50s introduced heaven on the tongue. It meant slurping the whole cone, dip and all, down to the last lick, even if I felt full half-way through. It meant indulging in that thick chocolate butterfat without considering the calories.

Nassar made my day. Not because he charged only $1.49 for that giant cone. And not for bringing back all those delicious memories, but because his smile was open and genuine. And because when we bid him farewell, he put his hand to his heart. Not even a triple chocolate-dipped cone could replace the joy of that.


  1. You are a wonderful writer, Leeanne! I really enjoyed this story. If you ever want to write for the African Library Project, we would be honored and delighted!

  2. I love it, Leane! On a recent trip to Wisconsin, my sweetie and I had a similar encounter with the 50’s eating a chocolate dip soft serve at a dairy queen.

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