After a video collage of seventies-looking nostalgia pictures, zoom in on a ten year old boy watching television in his den. He is wearing a broad-striped shirt and some well-worn corduroys. He sits on one end of a couch next to his brother and sister, bowl of ice cream in his lap. The Daniel Stern voiceover begins:
“The year was 1978. Jimmy Carter was president. The Yankees would go on to win the World Series, advancing to the championship through the infamous Bucky Dent home run game against the Red Sox. Grease was the most popular movie in the theater while at home, millions watched every week for the Fonz to free the nerds on Happy Days. The FM radio was playing Bee Gee songs in high rotation as the disco trend continued to sweep the nation. Meanwhile, a boy was enjoying an ice cream from the fine folks at Sealtest that they called Heavenly Hash. That’s when I met Winnie Cooper…”
When I first heard that today was Heavenly Hash Day, my mind went to a time long ago. Heavenly Hash used to be a special treat. It wasn’t just ice cream. It had nuts, marshmallows and chocolate in there. This was a time when that didn’t happen all that often. You’d have ice cream with nuts, maybe ice cream with fudge ripple in it (whatever that is), but that’s about it. When Ben & Jerry came along, they kind of blew up that model and then they started throwing everything into their ice cream (they even make an Everything But the Kitchen Sink flavor). But prior to that, things were simpler in the freezer section, except for Heavenly Hash. It was a special kind of ice cream. My Mom was a fan and she’d buy it every now and then. I think Sealtest was the brand she’d buy the most. (What kind of brand name was that? Was their food tested on seals?) That’s the brand that stands out in my mind, although I don’t think it’s around anymore.
Heavenly Hash ice cream was a mixture of vanilla and chocolate ice cream with almonds, marshmallows and bits of chocolate mixed in. It’s very similar to its more-well known compadre Rocky Road which is made with only chocolate ice cream, but also has nuts (almonds or pecans), marshmallow and chocolate bits. There’s a great blog about this from a writer Gary Applegary. When I saw it was Heavenly Hash day I had a moment of thinking this would be easy-peasy. I would just pick some up at the grocery store. Then I tried to remember the last time I saw Heavenly Hash in the store. It’s been a while. I did some research online and a lot of ice cream makers have discontinued it. I guess that makes sense because times have changed. There are more options now and let’s face it, Heavenly Hash seems a bit dated in both concept and name. Finding it wasn’t going to be so easy. Nonetheless, as a man on a quest, I had an obligation to give it my best. With hope in my heart, I headed out to my local markets. I first went to the Dollar General. I had to pick up some other stuff there so it was a good place to begin. I also thought that they would be the most likely to have it since they seem to have a good supply of discontinued items. They did have Rocky Road, but no Heavenly Hash.
I then went across the street to Cumberland Farms. I had a good feeling I’d find it here because I thought that Heavenly Hash would be intriguing to a stoner with the munchies making his way through the aisles at the Farm. I could even picture someone giggling in delight through the freezer door at the name of the ice cream. But alas, they didn’t carry it either. My final stop was Clements Market. They have a whole aisle full of all kinds of different brands and flavors of ice cream. Surely they would have Heavenly Hash. I did a very slow and methodical search, starting at one end and really going row by row in the cooler. I checked every brand, every flavor. Nada. No Heavenly Hash. I did learn that you should not go on such a detailed search when you are hungry (this just made me ravenous), and I also learned how long you can be in one aisle of a grocery store without being creepy (about five minutes less than I stayed). I’m sure someone out there stocks Heavenly Hash, but I felt going any place else would start getting silly. Maybe it really is gone forever. That would be sad.
I did some more research online and I realized that Heavenly Hash has other forms outside the world of ice cream. It’s also a name for a type of Ambrosia (you know, the gelatin, fruit salad mixture) and that was frightening because I’ve already gone through that and wasn’t enthusiastic about making it again. But then I read that Heavenly Hash is also a kind of candy. It turns out that before it was an ice cream flavor, Heavenly Hash was created by a New Orleans department store to pass out to shoppers. In 1923, the recipe was acquired by Elmer’s Candy Corp and promptly launched into large scale production. The egg-shaped chocolate and marshmallow confection still remains a Louisiana Easter tradition (you hear that Kristen R?) This was info from a blog called TheKitchn.com and it also included a recipe for the candy. Now I was on to something. The instructions seemed easy enough and I had everything I needed. It said it needed about two hours to cool, so I gave myself some time in the afternoon to make it. It came together pretty fast. You melt sugar, evaporated milk and corn syrup and then boil it until it hits 225 degrees. Then you add in some vanilla and chocolate (the recipe called for dark chocolate but I used semi-sweet). After it cools for a bit, you fold in some salted almonds and marshmallows. Then you pour it out into a pan and let it set. It came together in less than a half hour.
After it was set, I sliced it into bars. It’s pretty much like making fudge. When I cut it, I gave a piece to Lola who was sitting by the heater writing and oblivious to what I was doing. She was hungry though and happily took a piece. She gave me an immediate, “Oh My God!” which is always a good sign. She said it was something special. It had depth, from the deep chocolate taste to the softness and sweetness of the marshmallows all supported by the salty crunch of the roasted almonds. She loved it. She even had another little piece. That’s a win. I thought it was pretty fantastic too for the same reasons. That’s when I realized that it really tasted like the Heavenly Hash ice cream, but without the ice cream. That sounds like a lazy description, but there was an element of recognition in my mouth that took me back to long ago when I was eating Heavenly Hash on our couch watching Happy Days. It had the same crunch. The same delight from the marshmallows. It brought me back.
Todays’s celebration was a journey through time and even though I didn’t find the exact product of my youth, I found a memory. I would have forgotten about Heavenly Hash had it not been the day to celebrate it. And now I know about a new way to enjoy it. Maybe I’ll see the ice cream again somewhere. Maybe it will be featured at an ice cream stand when the summer comes back. When I see it, I think I’ll order it just to go back to that place in time when life was simpler, when the Yankees were champions, when the Fonz had yet to jump the shark and when Winnie Cooper was the cutest girl on the block.
[Cue “With a Little Help from My Friends” music.]
Next Up: National Carrot Cake Day