It’s almost here: That day when all eyes turn to Bristol, Vermont for the 4th of July Outhouse Races – the annual running of the runs. Are the early morning wind sprints with outhouses in tow as elegant as the races at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby? No. Thank goodness. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate our nation’s great experiment in legislative self-determination than with outhouse racing down Bristol’s main street.
Actually, this year I can: With ice cream.
Martha Mack, 27-year-old progeny of chef and restaurateurs Doug Mack and Linda Harmon (Mary’s at Baldwin Creek), opened a homemade ice cream parlor in Bristol last month, and the flavors have been eccentric and sublime. It’s called lu.lu! and I love everything about the name except for the fact the spell-check on my computer hates it. Among the flavors Martha has concocted already are curried peanut, orange cardamom, caramelized banana, and strawberry balsamic.
So, I challenged her – and my readers who follow me on facebook. Last week I asked the folks on facebook to come up with the perfect flavor for the 4th of July in Bristol. I would pick the contest winner and Martha promised to craft a special batch of ice cream that she would sell at lu.lu! on the big day. The winner would receive free scoops or cones for herself and up to three friends – or, if they lived far from Bristol, a copy of my new novel.
Many of the entries were brilliant. Others were gigantic red flag warning signs that the reader is likely to go Tom-Cruise-on-Oprah’s-couch-crazy. But I appreciated them all.
Before I announce the winner, I have to single out some of the entries that, for lack of a better term, were the runners-up. Their ice cream dreams might someday wind up at the top of a lu.lu! cone. One never knows. In no particular order, here they are.
- Susan Garcia: “In honor of the Outhouse Races, my husband suggests pineapple ice cream with hot fudge swirls and brown chunks.”
- Anne Hirsch: “Kitty litter: Sweet cream ice cream with Goldfish pretzels, mini malted milk balls, and a Dulce de leche swirl.”
- Nicole Mongie Mongeon: “Maple plus sharp cheddar – my two favorite things from Vermont!”
- Mitchell Solkowitz: “All-American – strawberry, vanilla, and blueberry ice creams!”
- Hilary Casillas: “Heirloom tomatoes and blueberries.”
- Alicia King: “Dark chocolate with hot chili pepper ribbon and salted toffee crunchies.”
- Wendy Whaples Scully: “In honor of the outhouse: Vanilla bean ice cream with Tootsie Roll chunks, crushed Saltines, and fudge chocolate swirl.”
- Betsy McDonough Brown: “Donut chunks in coffee ice cream.”
- Suzan Castor: “In keeping with red, white, and blue for the 4th, I suggest watermelon, coconut, and blueberry gelatos.”
- Danielle Libertucci Tucker: “Key lime with graham cracker crust bits.”
- Tina Siart Boylan: “Remember those cinnamon hot balls from the penny candy store? Crushed hot balls, salty caramel swirl, and chocolate chunks with a hint of cayenne. Call it ‘Fireworks.’ Would that send you racin’ to the outhouse?”
And the winner? Well, to use Academy Award parlance, the free scoops of ice cream go to Karen Franklin-Valiquette. Here is what she suggested: “In keeping with July 4th, how about Earl Grey tea flavored ice cream with chunks of Boston Baked Beans candies?” Brilliant. It celebrates the American patriots who hurled crates of tea into Boston Harbor and a gaseous high-fiber food that has driven many a Bostonian to an outhouse.
Thanks so much to everyone who entered and to ice cream auteur Martha Mack. See you at the Outhouse Races this Wednesday – and, perhaps, at lu.lu!.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on July 1, 2012. Chris’s new novel, “The Sandcastle Girls” arrives in 16 days. To preorder it or learn more, click here.)