Eight Three One
So today is many things. It is National Trail Mix Day, Jeff Tuten’s birthday and the day that Princess Diana died. But it also represents a magical number. The summer that I worked as a counselor at Mount Hermon’s Redwood Camp in the Santa Cruz mountains was a special summer for me for many reasons.
One of the best parts of most weekends was that my bestie, who lived in nearby Watsonville, would come and get me to enjoy some adventure together. Most weekends we would savor one or more scoops of the best ice cream ever at Marianne’s Ice Cream, 1020 Ocean Street in Santa Cruz. There are well over 100 flavors of ice cream to taste and try. Usually we knew what we were going to have, but I would often get almost a second scoop’s worth by trying as many flavors as I could before settling back on my favorite Mandarin Chocolate, Macapuno and Strawberry Freeze.
One day that summer we walked into the shop across the sand covered floor to the chin high counter, without waiting in a line. We were greeted by the the owner, Sam Lieberman, who often waited on customers, eager to share in the happiness that a scoop on a cone would mean. He was a creative genius with flavors and on this day we noticed a new flavor called 831. We asked him to give us a description as we tasted a spoonful on the end of a popsicle stick, the traditional taster at Marianne’s. “It’s like a MudPie, so it is coffee ice cream with crushed Oreo cookie crumbs and hot fudge swirls,” Sam said. Mud Pie is a decadent ice cream dessert invented in the ’60s in San Francisco for an upscale restaurant so it enjoyed a nod to a local treat, like Alice B. Toklas Fudge Brownie and Gilroy Garlic.
We asked Sam why he didn’t name this flavor Mud Pie and what the significance of 831 was, thinking perhaps it was the number of flavors he had invented, his birthday or the address of the store. He leaned over the counter, lowered his voice to let us know this was an important secret he was sharing with us. “It means I Love You”, the owner whispered. “It stands for 8 letters, 3 Words, One feeling,” he elaborated. We gasped and looked at each other with wide eyes, knowing we had new vocabulary to add to our already abbreviated insider lingo.
Ironically, the area code of the store is now 831, but that flavor no longer exists at Marianne’s as it did that day in the late 70’s. Today there is a caramel ice cream flavor with hot fudge and crushed chocolate cookies called 1020, which is the address of the iconic ice cream shop. There is also Mud Pie, which is coffee ice cream with almonds and crushed Oreos. Even though there is not a flavor called 831, we still celebrate the love of ice cream and our friendship, not just today, but everyday! Happy 831 to my BFF. I love you!