Platonic Realities

This is a different kind of post from my usual fare.
I have noticed something about coming to the midwest from west of the Rockies: I did not know what they were talking about.
Here’s what I mean. When I was in California, we enjoyed things like soft-serve ice cream, jelly-filled doughnuts, and when Christmas came around we would put tinsel on the trees – some people even “flocked” their trees, sprinkled them with glitter, and hung plastic icicles on them.
But now I am filled with a slight Platonic echo. Those things that I knew in California in my youth were but shadows of the real things.
Take soft-serve ice cream. What soft-serve is trying to replicate is the decadent dessert called ‘frozen custard.’ See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frozen_custard. Frozen custard is a rich, delightful, frozen cream-based batch of wonderfulness that Dairy Queen only wishes it could reproduce. Frozen custard is what soft-serve ice cream wants to be when it grows up.
The same for the jelly-filled doughnut. When I lived in California, we had Dunkin’Doughnuts and (more popularly in the west) “Winchells.” Winchells was where the cops hung out. The west coast was not a real doughnut culture – not nearly the same as New England. But in high school, after a night of “TP-ing” (ask your friends who grew up in the ‘70’s about that), we’d go over to Winchell’s, get some doughnuts, and chuckle under our breaths over our exploits – knowing full well that three squad cars were represented in the room. Anyway, if we were feeling flush with cash, we might splurge on a jelly-filled “doughnut.”
But now I live in Michigan, in the metro Detroit area, and we have a lot of Polish people living around here. Before Lent, the Poles create a wonderous pastry called a “paczki” (pronounced “paunch-kee”) to be eaten on Fat Tuesday (sometimes Fat Thursday). See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C4%85czki and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fat_Thursday. It is, again, what a jelly-filled doughnut aspires to be.
Of course, living in a winter snow environment, I’ve now experienced the fun of seeing icicles form. I never thought about it until now but icicles don’t form in the cold of winter, they only form when it’s warmed up above freezing for a bit. Again, plastic icicles on the Christmas tree, or the icicle decorative lights during the Christmas season pale into silliness when you see the real thing: an ice beard bordering the eaves of a house, building, or church.
Finally, just this morning, Barb and I were out driving further north where a little snow had fallen the day before. As we drove past leafless trees, we noticed that they sparkled in the sunlight – they looked like they had pieces of tinsel or were sprinkled with glitter: very pretty.
So I suppose the point is, first, I never really knew what I was missing. I grew up unaware of the reality of frozen custard, paczkis, and snow effects. I only had the fake attempts. Sure, this would give people ammunition to claim that southern California is full of fake stuff. But I will tell you this for free, southern California does have real mountains, real ocean, real sand beaches, real deserts, real oranges, real palm trees, etc.
Second is this wonderful fact of life: Here I am in my mid-50’s and I’m still learning about stuff. That’s pretty cool.
I think I’ll celebrate by knocking off icicles from my eaves. 

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