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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.