Alyx Hesketh

Getting the scoop on ice cream scoopers

If I could eat ice cream all day everyday, I would. Oh yes, I would.

Strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, maple walnut, pecan, chocolate chip cookie dough, vanilla swiss almond, brownie bliss, you hand me the flavour and I’d be licking her up, breakfast, lunch, dinner and for multiple snacks and desserts in between.

If I could eat ice cream all day everyday, I would. Oh yes, I would.

Strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, maple walnut, pecan, chocolate chip cookie dough, vanilla swiss almond, brownie bliss, you hand me the flavour and I’d be licking her up, breakfast, lunch, dinner and for multiple snacks and desserts in between.

For years my dream job was to work in an ice cream parlour. How could it not be?

Earlier this month, I got that opportunity.

Mighty Moose Ice Cream in Yarrow is a side-of-the-road ice cream trailer owned by brothers-in-law Lance Martens, 22, and Josh Kraubner, 25. While the brothers run the show behind the scenes, it’s the teenage scoopers on the frontline.

Mighty Moose is 16-year-old Sami Hesketh’s first job, and even though she’s only been working it since June, she’s already well versed in the tricks of the trade.

It’s not a job for weaklings, she says.

“You can’t be weak, you’ve got to have a little muscle so you’re able to scoop.”

Sami pulls the scooper out from the rinsing tub, and with a quick jerk of her arm, flicks the excess water off. She braces her body against the freezer, one leg back, one pushed up against it, hip leaning in, and reaches down into the bucket. She scrapes the strawberry cheesecake down from the sides, forms a hefty tennis ball sized scoop in the middle and then piles even more on top until she’s made a single scoop that looks more like five scoops – an ice cream lover’s most delectable dream come true.

“There’s no going to the gym for that girl, she’s getting a good wrist workout right there,” an older gentleman heartily remarks as he awaits his cone.

Sami smiles. Her right arm, she’s noticed, has gotten bigger.

“But not my left; I’m not ambidextrous.”

Sami doesn’t follow a standard measurement when scooping her masterpieces.

“I just eyeball it,” she shrugs. “Generally, if you think it’s too big, than it’s probably big enough.”

A scooper after my own heart.

But not all flavours cooperate.

Some, like cookies and cream, are real good for scooping. It’s not too hard like the mint chocolate chip flavour, which is like trying to dig at a rock, or too flaky like the raspberry frozen yogurt, which almost always falls apart within seconds of reaching the cone, or too drippy like the strawberry cheesecake and tiger flavours, which have syrups added to them.

“If you’re not careful, they’ll drip all over the place,” says Sami, who ends most shifts with her right arm died blue and pink.

At first look, the job of a scooper is a dream come true: sunny days, 16 buckets of different flavoured ice creams to sample, the aroma of fresh homemade waffle cones wafting all around. But Sami’s quick to enlighten me on the reality of the job.

It’s not all ice cream bliss, she says.

Days at the stand go through peaks and valleys. Scoopers can go hours without a customer, and then, in the blink of an eye, have a busload of them lining up out onto the street.

Being the only one behind the counter, it can get stressful, she says, as she assembles a six-person ice cream order at a pace attuned to a 10-person assembly line.

If supplies, such as the waffle cones, or desired ice cream flavours run out, she has to make her customers wait – something she does not like to do.

“You want to get their ice cream out to them fast, keep them happy,” she says. “And you don’t want to disappoint on size.

“When it’s too busy it can be overwhelming for just one person, and when it’s slow it can be really boring because you’re by yourself,” she says.

After about an hour of watching Sami’s every move, taking notes, asking her question after question, it’s my turn. The customer on the other side of the counter requests the hardest flavour to scoop, mint chocolate chip, but I’m not afraid.

Grab scooper, check.

Flick excess water, check.

Brace leg, check.

Scoop the mint chocolate … oh no.

The bucket, which is three quarters empty, shifts and bangs into the next bucket over, just as I start scooping, my arm goes flinging into the side, and my scoop looks more like a pebble than a five-tiered tennis ball. Major fail.

At the end of my shift, arms sticky, and apron an ice cream mess, I indulge in a cone of my own. (All scoopers get one free ice cream a shift.)

Even though I didn’t make much of a scooper, I left the shop in ice cream heaven.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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