Road Trip: Lafayette’s Little Jewel

I remember the brands of food I ate in my childhood with a certain amount of sentimentality. Holsum bread sponsored my high school boyfriend’s baseball team. I remember driving by the Holsum Bread bakery and smelling that bread baking long before we ever knew that white bread was not very good for us. One of my favorite sandwiches growing up was a teaspoon of sugar mixed into a big glob of butter and spread on Holsum’s white bread. Man, was that good! Of course, back then we really didn’t have ready made candies available every day. That was the kind of “candy” that we ate when we craved sweets. I can’t imagine doing that today, but, honestly, it’s probably healthier than a Snicker’s bar. Momma and I loved to take a can of Pet brand evaporated milk, mix it with sugar and sliced bananas in a large coffee mug. And, of course, ice cream was always a favorite.

Tonight I was driving out to dinner in Lafayette and I spotted a Borden’s Ice Cream Shoppe. I’d never seen one, and this one obviously was an old one. It looked just like the old ice cream shoppes in the movies. After dinner, I stopped in to see the place and take some pictures. The menu was very much the same as it was when it opened. I didn’t meet her, but one of the current employees has worked there for almost 50 years. The servers at the counter gave me a menu that provided a history of the place. It was established in 1940. I’m not going to repeat the history because you can read it here, but it is once again owned by a family in Lafayette. It is the only one left in the world. They’ve added espresso drinks to the menu and some items that make it more marketable in today’s culture, but many of the items on the menu are the traditional recipes. The banana splits, the milk shakes, the sherbet flips and freezes and many others are denoted on the menu as traditional recipes by the little daisy with the cow’s face in the center that I remember from childhood. I believe her name was Elsie. And, I thought she was a real cow.

As a child, I related to these brands in a very different way than I relate to brands now. I have a few that I am loyal to, but as a child, they were the players in my life. Elsie the cow was real. The Pillsbury dough boy moved and danced and was a real character. I knew Kelloggs by the rooster that I saw dancing and talking on TV. My family was a Kleinpeter dairy family. I’ve noticed since I’ve moved back to Baton Rouge that Kleinpeter is actually a local dairy. I guess as a child, I thought they were all local dairies, and I remember being surprised when I moved to Pittsburgh that Borden was present on their shelves. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a southern Louisiana thing, and it took some of the sentimentality away from Elsie. I finally realized she probably didn’t exist except as a marketing strategy. On the other hand, I looked up Kleinpeter Dairy tonight, and they are still a small dairy with a farm up in Pine Grove which is where the King side of my family originated. It’s out in the sticks – the piney woods as we always called it. What I loved most about their website is that they have a picture of a cow named Sweetie Pie Kleinpeter that just had a baby. And … you know what … I’ll bet Sweetie Pie is real. I’ll bet I can drive up to Pine Grove and lay hands on that cow if I want to, and I like that.

The servers in the Borden Ice Cream Shoppe are not old enough to remember the days of milkmen like I do. We had a Kleinpeter milkman that delivered milk to our back door until Momma started working in Baton Rouge, and the milk would spoil before she got home. I remember her complaining to Kleinpeter about them not getting it to her before she left, and I’m sure she really hated to see that long tradition go as much as I did. Now, it seems totally weird that we would have milk delivered, but that’s what we did for many, many years. Now I buy the Kleinpeter milk out of the dairy case because it makes me feel connected to something that I fondly remember. I was so happy to know that with all the modern issues with dairy milk, Kleinpeter is local, has a certified humane rating and is still a rather small dairy. It makes me feel good to buy it. And, I felt good buying some Borden ice cream tonight from this local place that has been around since the 1940s.

All ages of people were in the shop tonight. Some teenagers strolled in and got milkshakes. An elderly couple shared ice cream sundaes. A young couple with little kids were eating their evening desserts and lounging around in the booth. I thought how cool it has been for families of this area who have gone there as a tradition. Generation after generation has gone inside that same store ordering the same dishes year after year and decade after decade. I googled the history of Borden, and Wikipedia outlines their long history as a corporate giant. In the center of the page, there is a picture of the very ice cream shop that I visited tonight. Who would have thought I would have found a gem like this in Lafayette LA?

I think I may go take a tour of that Kleinpeter Dairy soon. I’d like to say hi to Sweetie Pie and that little calf she just had. Apparently, she’s decided that for shower gifts, she wants people to give money to a local animal rescue center. For me, the brands that are connected to community and to history are the ones I really favor. I have to say the Borden Ice Cream Shoppe that I saw tonight made me feel a little more connected to Borden. I love the fact that they still use that little yellow daisy with Elsie’s face in the center. She’s just so dang cute. Laughing with the servers and talking about their store made me feel good, and, what is it they say? “If it’s Borden, it’s Got to Be Good!” And, I have to say that it was.

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