Proustian Almonds

I had to fly to DC for work. I was given a packet of salted almonds on the airplane. As I ate them the thought came back to me of the little white, paper cups of salted nuts they would give you on the side, if you asked for them, with a hot fudge sundae at Friendly’s Ice Cream. They were good, and added a whole dimension of sweet/salty, to go with hot/cold and chocolate/vanilla — to say nothing of the cherry on top. I don’t know if the nuts are available anymore, but I somehow doubt it, at least in the paper cups. When you had poured the nuts on there, you opened up the paper cup so it was flattened out into a disk, and then you got the last few crumbs and grains of salt out of it. There was a Friendly’s in Brockton, Mass. There was another one, I think, at the Braintree mall. I’d go in these places with my mother when I was a kid, if we were out shopping for school clothes. That was our ritual. No particular episode stands out, it is a whole category of memories (tactile, visual, olfactory, auditory as well as the taste of things), all in one bin in my head. This is all a long time ago now. It was a time before the issue of whether or not to eat such a thing would have occurred to me — if it was available, I ate it. And now as in so many other details, the torch has passed. It is part of my job to be the parent taking the kids out for ice cream. The kids are not particularly grateful. The kids are not distracted by other concerns when the ice cream appears — it is a brief but all-consuming episode. And the parent sits there, with a cup of coffee, having bought a moment’s quiet, or time to worry about something else in peace for a minute, which is even better than a hot fudge sundae with nuts. Or at least almost as good.