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RUTLEDGE: What Grinch takes all the peppermint ice cream after Christmas?

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

After spending Thanksgiving in Ohio with my wife’s family, we came home with loads of thankfulness and something we’d just as soon not have: A disgusting stomach bug. My wife and one daughter were among several who were stricken.

Once it was safe for the afflicted ones at our house to swallow more than dry toast, their tummies were soothed by an unlikely tonic—peppermint ice cream. The discovery was made purely by chance.

I had gone to the supermarket for soup and noticed that peppermint ice cream, a seasonal treat available only during Thanksgiving and Christmas, had reappeared in the freezer section. With no small measure of queasy trepidation, my wife, Sharon, took a chance, consumed a few bites … and felt better.

Who knew?

The unexpected medicinal value of peppermint ice cream adds to my long-held bewilderment over that particular flavor's “seasonal” designation. Who makes these decisions? What are the criteria?

There certainly are food items and flavors that traditionally sell well during the holidays but have a harder time tantalizing taste buds come spring. Peppermint is not among them.

Claxton fruitcake in limited supply I can understand. During my earliest years, my father would bring home the entire allotment of Claxton fruitcakes given him to sell for the Civitan Club fundraiser. My older sister and I would sit on either arm of Dad’s recliner while he carved off little squares of gooey goodness and fed them to us from a toothpick.

Those blocks of candied fruit and nuts add something nice to the digestive tract during the holidays. After January 1, however, fruitcake of any variety is useful only for helping tires gain traction in a snowstorm.

The good news is that any partial blocks of fruitcake still in the fridge from last Christmas will taste good again come Thanksgiving. Simply carve away the dried end and resume the Yuletide feast.

Eggnog, on the other hand, will not keep from season to season—unless it’s made into ice cream. The window for liquid consumption is wider than the expiration date, but never enough time for our house to consume an entire quart.

My annual eggnog experience typically goes from that late-November “Hey, eggnog!” moment at the dairy case to my wife announcing, “I'm pouring out the rest of this nasty stuff” around early February.

Perhaps the newest and most pervasive seasonally marketed menu item is pumpkin flavoring. Americans apparently will buy more of anything during Thanksgiving and Christmas if it’s emblazoned with the words “pumpkin spice.”

Pumpkin spice coffee creamer, pumpkin spice cookies, pumpkin spice doughnuts, yogurt, pretzels, cream cheese, oatmeal and on and on. There is even a pumpkin spice spray-on flavoring for food items still awaiting official recognition.

Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are my favorite. It’s probably a good thing they’re not available all year. I might be tempted to eat them in July with a slice of last year’s Claxton fruitcake.

And there’d be no peppermint ice cream to ease my pain.

Contact Mark Rutledge at mrutledge@reflector.com or like him on Facebook at Mark Rutledge Columns.

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