Ice cream. It’s a food, of course, but I believe it deserves to be classified as a vitamin. Vitamin IC. And the best source for IC is New England, the world’s capitol of IC. If you travel the roads here, you are always stumbling on local, seasonal ice creams stands. And bordering communities can have border wars over whose ice cream is really the best.

Here in Central Maine, Gifford’s is the place to be. It’s 9:30PM and the sun has set. But an hour ago, Suzen and I were watching red clouds passing high over the darkening green trees. We were sitting at Gifford’s in Waterville, Maine, on a picnic bench surrounded by swirling children. There were squeals of delight everywhere and you could hear the “I wanna” pleas from the kids eagerly updating their choices with parents who have been through this all too many times.

Local ice cream stores have the freedom and imagination to create their own special flavors, not worrying about “national” marketing pressures. Tonight, I had Maine Deer Tracks: coffee ice cream, bits of Heath bars, and ripples of fudge. It’s a great combination and one that you can do for yourself.

I must say that Gifford’s coffee ice cream is wonderful. A kind of decaf. Not that intense coffee attack that your usual coffee ice cream has. No, this one is light to the tongue. A simple, good flavor that is the perfect vehicle for those Heath Bar chips and a mellow fudge sauce. This is ice cream worthy of a national market.

But maybe, just maybe, the chance to enjoy these great flavors is all based on it being local. This ice cream is the product of the fifth generation to work in the dairy trade. When it comes to food, local tradition generates the pride you sense in every bite.