“I Scream, You Scream, We all Scream for Ice Cream” unless, like me, you are lactose intolerant, then you just sit there sad with your once scoop of sorbet remembering a time when you could enjoy ice cream (yes, I’m still bitter by my diagnosis). Here I was at Harrod’s Ice Cream Parlour at the iconic luxury department store in London with my niece, it was all so surreal. The room was filled with multiple nationalities, languages, religions, etc. and yet, here we were enjoying our commonality, a love for ice cream (or sorbet in my case).
I tried to dissuade my niece from the ice cream idea after our late lunch (I was afraid to go because I knew the prices would be insane) as we walked back to the first floor food hall – “what about a cupcake, isn’t it so pretty?”, “how about pain du chocolat like we had in Paris?”, of course, my case was getting weak, the child wanted ice cream, more specifically the ice cream sundaes she watched the other kids eat with glee. So back to the 2nd floor we went as I gave in and her mood did a 360 into this happy, no longer moody, child.
We were seated and my niece wide eyed spied all the other sundaes in the room (one had dry ice and smoke effects) and quickly flipped the menu to her sundae options skipping the milkshakes, dismissing the separate scoops all while unaware of the costs (naturally). I looked at the costs and tried to stop my mind from working the exchange rate because my niece was happy and I would take this fleeting mood after our ten days together. She, of course, picked one of the more expensive options at £13.95, the brownie sundae, but the server said “it was the best value because she would get three scoops of ice cream” (I had to laugh, value at Harrods reads like an oxymoron).
The sundae came quickly and that was the last we would see of our server. My niece looked at the sundae and the side of melted chocolate to pour on top. Being ever dramatic, she took her time to pour from way up high to see it drip and ooze into the glass filling all the empty spaces. As she enjoyed her sundae, the lady next to us pointed to my one small scoop of raspberry sorbet and said “it is very good here”. She had sorbet as well and told us that she and her husband came to the Ice Cream Parlour every day for the past month with their grandchildren. They were living in London for the summer and the kids had just returned home to their parents in India and this was their first visit without the children. They were so lovely as they asked my niece about her travels – they already were missing their grandchildren.
On the other side of us, the table would not engage with us but I was (as was my niece) fascinated as the women were wearing hiqabs (head to toe black garments showing only their eyes). They would raise and lower the garment at their mouth for each small bite of their sundaes. At another table, Italian was the language of choice. At the counter, a group of young men were taking a shopping break with milkshakes. The people watching was fantastic and actually comforting to know despite all of our difference on paper, we were all just people enjoying the simple pleasure of ice cream (or sorbet). Food really does bring people together.
My niece was very observant as she ate her sundae but held her questions until we walked back to the hotel – it was one of the few times during our trip that she was engaged and curious to learn about our experience with new people and cultures. The cost of this ice cream lesson in London was about $32, but the conversation, people watching and the exposure to an international contingent was priceless.