Day: February 23, 2017

Alfred L. Cralle’s Ice Cream Scoop

Day 23 of black history month, I admit this is a less world-shaking accomplishment than some of the stuff I’ve been highlighting, but: in 1897, age 30 years old, an African-American hotel porter named Alfred L. Cralle patented an invention he’d developed in the years prior – an ice cream scoop.

You know the kind I mean. The kind where you squeeze the handle and a little built-in scythe scissors across the half-orb spoon, and a perfect sphere of ice cream drops out, and you did it one-handed. THAT ice cream scoop. (Cralle’s first design was actually more conical, you can see from the drawings. But you have to start somehwere.)

Can you imagine inventing that? Can you imagine that ice cream scoop not existing, and then one day, you say, wait a second…

Probably a lot of people would tell you it’s a goofy idea and they can’t really picture it and who needs something like that anyway? But if you are Alfred L. Cralle, you push forward, and you are right to do so.

I’d put this invention on the same level as the corkscrew. I’d put it above the kazoo. (I love kazoos.) It’s definitely above the ice cream cake. It’s below pencil sharpeners that work well (but above the ones that break the graphite over and over again, or sharpen the wood past the part you write with. Those are no good.)

Hats off to you, Alfred L. Cralle. Hats off to your “Ice Cream Mold and Disher.” If I’d really been on top of things, I’d have commemorated it on February 2, its patent anniversary.

By the by (extra fact since I missed day 22), the method of making ice cream by using an outer container of ice mixed with salt to cool the cream and sugar mix down was developed by African-American chef Augustus Jackson. He was a cook at the White House in the 1820s, then moved to Philadelphia to develop a very lucrative confectionery and catering business, including many popular ice cream flavors. But as far as I can tell, he took his recipes TO THE GRAVE, so we can only imagine.

(When I imagine, I imagine sampling them using AN ICE CREAM SCOOP, you know the kind I mean, which wasn’t invented until decades later, but this is my dream.)


Looking American

Two stories that make me skeptical that immigration enforcement in the current US cultural environment will be pursued in a way that’s not racist:

1. Although I’m so American that I’ll fight with you about how much more American than you I am (this is a quintessential sign of Americanness), I have a weirdo foreign name (like Reince Preibus!) and an abnormally featureless accent that (often inaccurately) telegraphs “not from around here.” (Most common guess, including by Canadians, is Canadian.) It’s not uncommon for me to walk down the street wearing a “London Film School” fleece while carrying a canvas bag that looks like the EU flag, and some book by a foreign radical. Has anybody ever, ever asked me to prove I’m in the country legally? They have not. (I mostly get asked for directions. I do my best.)

2. I (mostly) grew up in a majority-hispanic neighborhood full of vibrant small businesses and grandparents sitting on porches to watch kids walk home from school. At my approximately 90% hispanic middle school, we regularly had to go through metal detectors and there were always cops nearby in case suddenly these 13-year-old kids of grocers and dressmakers decided to erupt into gang war. All fashion popular in the latino community was assumed to be a gang symbol. There were persistent urban legends that part of the gang induction was murdering a white person.

To reiterate: 13-year-old kids who were in the school orchestra and worked on science fair projects were definitely, definitely on the verge at all times of becoming violent criminals.

I thought at the time that was just how middle school was, that people were unjustly terrified of middle schoolers, and that part of being a young adult was getting hassled by a vast and paranoid security state. (I hated middle school.) Turns out, only sort of.

Do these anecdotes prove anything? No. Do they give me good reason to suspect that American citizens less pale than me are going to get hassled about their day-to-day presence being “illegal” for reasons that don’t have a lot to do with clues about who was and wasn’t born here? You betcha.

Gang of Eight

When you call your congresspeople today, maybe bug them about reviving the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill (aka The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, S.744). It passed the Senate 68-32 last time but was never called for a vote in the house. Most of those senators are still there.

The fast-paced deportations Trump and ICE are working on are taking place against the background of a legal immigration system pretty much everybody agrees is broken. The law the executive branch is enforcing so rigorously? Bad, stupid, outdated. Inhmane to immigrants who follow the law and still can’t catch a break. Overly punitive to people who make small, accidental mistakes. Misaligned with what we want for our economy.

We know we need reform. We know how. Get this bill back on the agenda. One way to get rid of bad law enforcement is to get rid of bad laws. It’s our job as citizens to demand proactive, long-term fixes, and not get stuck jumping at each new shadow cast by the flame of this single problem. Snuff it at the source. Call Congress.