What could be more fun than owning and working at an ice cream parlor in a beautiful, historic tourist area surrounded by miles and miles of gorgeous beaches? Ice cream is such a “happy” food, is it not? Such warm memories surround those hot summer days long ago when we would enjoy a cone with loved ones. We can almost taste that delightful flavor we ordered most frequently and can likely recall the favorite places we used to stop at.
Anyone familiar with Cape Cod can tell you that there is definitely not a shortage of ice cream shops here – at least in the summer. In fact, some tiny villages can boast of several great shops even within walking distance to one another. But try to get a cone on a hot July or August evening after a fun day at the beach and there’s a good chance you may have to wait a good while even for a parking spot!
Many hold strong opinions about which is the “best ice cream shop on the Cape.” Since we opened in October of 2012, we’ve been blessed with a growing base of loyal fans who give us plenty of reasons to love coming to work every day. But we do sometimes hear from the occasional disappointed or even angry customer who can’t help but compare us, in one way or another, to their own personal favorite place, having visited us only because they were “curious” or, it seems, dragged along, against their will, by friends or family. So why would anyone want to come to Aunties Ice Cream Parlor rather than the older, more established, vastly more popular, traditional favorites?
Is “Homemade” Ice Cream Really All That Important?
The short answer to this question is “Yes – it is.” That is, by far, the single most common question we are asked at Aunties … “Do you make your own ice cream?” or “Is your ice cream homemade?” or “Do you make your ice cream on the premises?” – to which we always respond – “No – we serve the delicious super premium ice cream of Mark Lawrence’s Polar Cave of Mashpee … try it – we think you’ll agree.” And 99.9 percent of the time they do. Never have we had anyone walk out because we said our ice cream was not homemade – on the premises. But we have no way of knowing how many people have simply refused to come into our shop because we don’t make our own. All we know is that it seems to be important – to locals as well as to visitors – but certainly not to everyone.
So what constitutes “homemade” ice cream, anyway? And why do people want it to be made “on the premises?” To me, good homemade ice cream should be made with fresh high-quality ingredients like cream, milk, and sugar – supplemented with other fresh ingredients like fruits, nuts, candies, swirls of fudge or marshmallow or caramel, and so forth to create various flavors. And this is exactly how our ice cream is made for us. Because they are a large facility, they have the ability to store the large quantities of ingredients needed. We receive deliveries weekly in the off-season (twice a week during the summer) and the ice cream is made on the previous night. Judging from the size of the local ice cream shops that claim to have “homemade” ice cream, in combination with the size of the summer crowds we get here on the Cape, I have to wonder how these local shops can possibly have the space to store the quantities of ingredients they would need to keep in stock to be able to serve those crowds. From what I understand, many – and maybe even all of them – use a pre-made, packaged dairy “base” to which they add ingredients like nuts, chopped candies, swirls of this ‘n that, etc. Is ice cream considered homemade if it uses a pre-packaged dairy mix?
So is ice cream considered “homemade” if a pre-packaged dairy base is used instead of milk, cream, and sugar? Would brownies made from a boxed mix be “homemade” or would they have to be made from scratch? What about that delicious chocolate cake at my party? If my sister made it from scratch and brought it over to my house would it no longer be “homemade” because I didn’t make it at my house? I don’t know the correct answer to these questions – it all depends on what’s important to you. For me, there are very, very few ice cream places where I didn’t like the product – whether it was homemade, made on the premises, or not, or whether milk, cream, and sugar or a pre-packaged dairy base was poured into the ice cream freezer – as long as there was a good variety of scrumptious flavors from which I could choose.
Before we opened in October of 2012, another ice cream shop owner told me with great authority that it would be “illegal” in our state for me to say the word “homemade” in relation to our ice cream. Whether or not that’s entirely true, I don’t know. In any case, we have always told our customers and include in all our printed literature that our delicious ice cream is, in fact, that of Polar Cave of Mashpee. We simply do not have the room in our shop to store all the ingredients and have all the equipment we’d need to make the variety of flavors we do carry. Many people who frequent our shop are indifferent to the fact that the ice cream is not made by us – that is not what’s important to them. Others love the ice cream and the ever-changing variety of flavors we have. Will we ever consider making our own? Well – you never know! But we would almost certainly have to leave our wonderful, historic downtown Main Street location … or open a second, bigger store somewhere.