From Mom to Son, Ice Pops Still Rule

You can cure the world’s ills with Popsicles. Or so I thought when I was five years old, when my woes were on the order of mosquito bites, losing at Checkers, or just being bored with no one my age to play with on a steamy summer day.

The Popsicles in question, the ones that worked their healing magic on my childhood, were the iconic twin pops in neon colors that straddled a pair of craft sticks. The kind designed to be broken apart and shared. As if. I devoured them all by myself, an only child’s privilege, most often during visits to my grandparents, who lived in Florida and kept a chest freezer in the garage alongside their oversized olive-green Chevy and towering stacks of National Geographic. I loved to snatch a magazine and a Popsicle (orange or grape) and squat on the driveway in the afternoon heat, waiting for the mailman. I’d pull the pop from its wrapper, which was already goopy with sticky sweetness, and bite into the icy treat just to hear the squeak it made against my teeth. As I worked my way through the magazine, the Popsicle would drip more and more steadily, staining more and more exotic images, until finally one last blob of barely frozen sugar syrup would plop down onto the page from whichever stick I hadn’t polished off quickly enough.

Fast forward to this summer. My eight-year-old son, Q, having no siblings for company, faces similar bouts of boredom when camp isn’t in session. But his quenching cure bears little resemblance to the chemically flavored, store-bought Popsicles of my youth. I’ve grown up and so have ice pops, which are hotter and hipper than ever. Yet their effect is still the same. Whereas I lost myself in the vicarious pleasures of a travel magazine, my son now tastes the flavors of far-off places for himself with pops we make at home: mango-yogurt pops spiked with cardamom for a lassi effect, and fudge pops with a chile or cinnamon accent.

Of course, it’s not quite as easy as pulling a package from the deep-freeze. But close.

Adults who love the nostalgia of ice pops but crave something more sophisticated can one-up it by adding a boozy splash of spirits. (A word of caution, though: kids may want to share. I know from experience. A recent batch of Ouzo Pops saw Q dancing deliriously to “Zorba the Greek” performed by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Band. Opà!) And for those purists who find it hard to argue with the simplicity and kid-appeal of old-style fruit flavors, they have only to buy a basket of berries, puree them with sugar syrup, and add a squirt of lemon or lime to balance the sweetness and preserve the fruit’s color.

Yes, the world is larger than it was when I was a kid, and much has changed. I couldn’t purchase those same Popsicles that were my summer salvation years ago even if I wanted to, given that manufacturers said good-bye to the twin-stick Popsicle in the ’80s, vindicating the pop-hording mentality of only children everywhere. But while the form and flavors of today’s treats are different, at least one thing’s still the same: sweet or savory, striped or swirled, even infused with hibiscus flowers, nothing beats an ice pop. It certainly won’t solve the world’s problems, but nothing’s better for curing what ails you.

LC Make Ice Pops Not War Note: Making ice pops yourself takes a little more effort than reaching into the freezer, but not much. Plus, with a project like this, it’s easy to secure the help of little hands. Kids flip for whimsical ice-pop molds shaped like stars or retro rockets (please, no “bomb” pops). If you don’t want to invest in molds or ice-pop machines, the ice-cube trays or paper cups of yesteryear work just as well as ever.

About Allison Parker

Allison Parker is the managing editor for Leite's Culinaria, as well as a developmental editor with more than 15 years' experience in literary and academic publishing. Sharpening pencils and knives side by side in the kitchen, she now fuses her editorial and writing life with an abiding love of things culinary.

Comments
Comments
  1. Love it! When my kids were younger we lived in Orlando and one of our favorite times of day was right after school when we’d go to the neighbor’s house, sit in the garage doing homework, and eat popsicles! Must’ve been an Orlando thing, because everyone had a full set-up in the garage: couch, chairs, tables, TV, and a fridge/freezer stocked with goodies!

    • Allison Parker says:

      Tanya, Thanks for sharing your memories. I always wondered if it was just my grandparents who had this set-up, which was quite foreign to me since we lived in NYC/Chicago much of the time I knew them. Just the idea of a garage held intrigue for me. They were in Winter Haven, so not far from Orlando. No couch and tables, though. But obviously, more to the delicious point here, the Popsicles resonate with you, and I’m glad. I hope you’ll test out some of our recipes for homemade ice pops. Stay cool this summer!

  2. Carol says:

    Twin stick Popsicles still alive and well in Canada!!

    • Allison Parker says:

      They are? Is it too nosy to ask if you share them, or indulgently refuse because they are too good? I wonder if the homemade ice pop craze is also going as strong in Canada as it is here. Regardless, thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      • Carol says:

        Sadly I am usually alone when I get them….so I get them to myself regardless. The tricky part is getting a clean break of the two and not have a half and a one and a half. You need a good flat corner to break it on. Rootbeer or grape for me.

        • Allison Parker says:

          Oh, yes, the clean break should be recognized as an art form. Root beer ice pop sounds yummy, have never had (or seen) one.

  3. LaRue says:

    Allison, what a great piece: the language, photos, the shared memories. Though I am a lot older than you, the memories about popsicles in the past are the same, except rather than sitting in a garage in FL, my friends and I would, mid-afternoon, go in search of the ice cream man pushing his white cart around the neighborhood. We always found him… and his popsicles, yes with the twin sticks. Thanks for making this summer morning a bit sweeter! I’m waiting for your next article.

    • Allison Parker says:

      Thank you. And, yes, sometimes the Popsicle or ice-cream cravings mean you have to be a bit more intrepid, scouting the neighborhood. I used to do that a bit later in life (post college), when in Chicago: there was a neighborhood where some friends lived, and there was usually a Latino/a vendor around somewhere with a white cart, selling mango ices. Glad you liked this piece. Thanks again for commenting.

  4. Yiana says:

    Oh, so delicious on a sweltering day! And remember how the deep red ones would color your lips so it looked like you were wearing forbidden lipstick?
    Thank you for bringing back those wholesome memories and making my day!

    • Allison Parker says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and to add to the collection of Popsicle memories here. Hope there are many delicious ice pops in your summer days!

  5. Dear Allison, A true pleasure to read your article! Like you, I mourn the disappearance of the twin-stick, which lightened up my Scandinavian childhood days:-) Your own modern-day popsicles sound truly delicious … very inspiring! Have you found any “golden proportions” when it comes to mixing for the perfect popsicle?

    • Allison Parker says:

      Anders, thanks so much! Nostalgia is good, but the modern-day pops really are pretty special. As for golden proportions… Personally, I go on a case by case basis, but it’s useful to remember that if you want icier textures, you need more water; the higher the sugar content, the softer the pop will be.

      Plus, if you’re like me and enjoy spiking pops with spirits, there’s definitely a limit. More is not better, because alcohol will prevent freezing. A single shot glass is as much as I’ve ever put in a whole batch.

  6. Susan says:

    Thanks for a trip down memory lane. My parents used to buy a popsicle for my brother and I to share if we behaved when out in the car for a drive. Sometimes we went to A&W to get the 5-cent root beer instead. Now my nieces come over to my place to swim and I let them share a popsicle. (Hey… we can still do that in Canada!)

    • Allison Parker says:

      Susan, Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I’m glad you liked the post. Between you and Carol, who commented above, I’m wondering if I need to make a trip to Canada soon. I’ll have to bring my son, too, though at this point I think making either of us share a Popsicle is probably a lost cause! I can pretend that buying two is just my way of helping the local economy, but we all know the truth here, don’t we? Cheers!

  7. Bruce says:

    Love this story and thanks for putting this out there. I have been making pops the last year or so plus and am always looking for another good recipe. I like hem because they are portion controlled and you can make them lower in fat and sugar if you would like to.

    Bruce

    • Allison Parker says:

      Bruce, glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for taking the time to comment; I appreciate it.

      I agree with you, that ice pops are some of the most accommodating treats around. Whether you like things icy, fruity, creamy (like pudding), spicy, decadent, or wholesome… it’s easy to adapt homemade popsicles to your liking. There’s been an explosion in creative (and impromptu) molds and “sticks” as well… I’ve seen some lovely tree branches whittled down and inserted in cherry pops, for instance. Ingredients suspended in the frozen pops, or stripes… I enjoy the creativity in presentation as much as the variations for flavor and nutrition.

  8. Ah, synchronicity! Only a few weeks ago it was so hot here I could barely consume a sorbet, let alone real food. The local version of Popsicles saved the day, or days, in the end; and when I posted in Facebook that a Popsicle diet is probably not the most, er, sensible, someone replied, Oh, but you could do a vegetable, or V-8 version. Mmmmm…nah.

    Your recipes, however, are ideal, and given that the heat cranking up once again, maybe I could stock the freezer with some home-made fresh fruit body temp reducers.

    Thanks for the timely pop post. ;)

  9. Rick Casner says:

    For a good part of my life I assumed that there was a direct link between Popsicles in the freezer and economic status. If you had ‘em you must be rich, if you didn’t, you weren’t. We didn’t…but it taught me to cultivate “rich friends” and that has served me reasonably well, delivering a fairly steady supply of frozen snacks. Now, late in life, I learn that I can just MAKE as many as I want…in any flavors that I want, totally upsetting a trusted economic theory. I suspect my wife, Lynn, will be delighted as I won’t be snooping around in friends’ freezers any more. Thanks Allison and thanks for a nifty bit of writing, too.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Perhaps you missed your calling, Casner. I like the tilt you bring to economic theorizing…

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