Some things being more important than others

  • Nan Parati

Published: 6/3/2019 10:53:56 PM

I am presently visiting a friend in New Orleans, a city of 1,216 restaurants, (I looked it up, present-day census) which, when you divide it up, comes out to almost three-quarters of a whole restaurant per citizen (including babies) in the town of Ashfield, Massachusetts, present-day census.

So, for no good reason at all, when my New Orleans hostess decided she and I should both go on diets, I went along with it. She went full KETO, where all one can eat is:

1. Meat

2. Vegetables

I knew that would never work for me, so I opted for the ZITO diet, which does not work out acronymically in any good way, but is what my Italian dad used to say to us kids when we complained about anything. And that diet comes out to:

1. No desserts

2. And no treats.

What? Really? Not even chocolate? Not even dark chocolate? Are you kidding?? Zito! Okay, not even chocolate.

Walking past a restaurant every few blocks here, somehow isn’t too hard, even in the city that invented Bananas Foster, beignets and bread pudding. I seem to be able to handle all of this. My concern is for when I get back to Ashfield. Because in Ashfield, Massachusetts we’ve got The Hardware Store. (It’s really called Ashfield Hardware, but those of us who live there already know where we are.)

The Hardware Store’s tagline is “Anything practical and practically anything.” And the number one summertime practicality on my (and everyone else’s) list is ice cream cones. Back when I used to own Elmer’s, strangers to our land would frequent in and ask at our counter, “Do you have ice cream cones?” To which I would always answer, in an expert fashion, “Nope, you’re gonna have to go over to the hardware store for those, right across the street.” And despite the demand, we never did have ice cream cones. Those belonged to The Hardware Store.

Among the rakes, screws, rope, bread, sleds, wire, cats (only one of those), books, plungers, soap, eggs, socks, tools, paint, coffee, animal food, animal traps (they cover it all), fencing, cleaning products, Hawaiian shirts, garden stakes, yodeling pickles (those actually fall under “impractically anything”), key blanks, window screens, toys and glue, over at the end of the counter, Ashfield Hardware owners Nancy and Laura have a sturdy freezer that houses four large tubs of Bart’s Ice Cream, with flavors they change out all the time. I’m not going to tell you which is my favorite, or you might say, “No way! They’ve got THAT?” and go in and eat it all. But they rotate real ice cream and sherbet (you can have all the sherbet, I don’t care for it, but for some reason little kids seem to like it) and are open every day but Tuesdays. Nancy and Laura scoop the ice cream and pile it on a cone relative to your size, weight and age, and they talk to you while doing so, so that it’s as much of a social event as it is a summer duty, all at the same time.

Laura and Nancy cater especially to young ‘uns, so they start with kid-sized cones at kid-sized prices. You can go full grown-up and get three scoops if you like, but the prices remain shockingly lower than you will find for ice cream anywhere else in the world. If you calculate the price of gas it’ll take from where ever in the world you are, to get to Ashfield, and balance it out with the price of an ice cream cone from Ashfield Hardware, it’ll still be worth the drive, and you can pick up a shovel while you’re there.

And a pizza, as Country Pie Pizza is right across the porch from the Hardware Store. (Get the Candy Pie – barbecue chicken, bleu cheese, onions, cheddar and bacon. You can add broccoli, which makes it good for Keto dieters, as long as you don’t eat the crust or the cheese.) On my diet you can eat the whole pie, crust and all, and still be on target as long as you don’t get one of their over-sized chocolate chip cookies at the end. (But they’re so good! Zito!)

And so here I am, in one of the greatest culinary cities in the world, naturally, thinking about ice cream at Ashfield Hardware and pizza from next door. And breakfast at Elmer’s and dinner out on the deck at the Lake House. And hanging out talking to the guys at Neighbors in the early mornings (which, as a former owner of Elmer’s, I’m now allowed to do.)

New Orleans, you know what? You’ve been great, really great, but it might be time to get on back home.

Nan Parati lives and works in Ashfield, where she found home and community following Hurricane Katrina. She can be reached at NanParati@aol.com.


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