Whether you're a hungover mess, on a road trip with fractious children or just a bit hot and thirsty, ice blocks are the answer. But not all are created equal, writes Amanda Thompson for The Spinoff.
I live in a town that lies on the way to and from a lot of summer festivals. We get used to our normally quiet service station being chock-full of dusty and depressed youths on any given Sunday, crawling back into reality and the New Year hot, hungry, hungover and extremely anxious about the state of their phone battery.
Bless the poor feral things. I could probably make a mint if I set up a roadside stall selling a barf bucket and a cool wet flannel for 10 bucks. Or a Berocca, a battery bank and bit of motherly advice, perhaps? (Crying on me will cost you extra.)
I joke. What you really need in this relatable summer sitch is an icy-cold Coke, a mince and cheese pie and half a bag of Rashuns, strictly in that order. Others may argue, but I personally guarantee this hangover cure. It won't bring back your lost debit cards, friendships and dignity, but you'll feel a bit more human.
And if you can't even look a pie in the proverbial eye, the remedy of last resort has got to be the ice block. Not an ice cream – there's no way you'll keep that sucker down all the way back to Masterton – but a sweet, possibly juicy, and definitely icy, block. It's sitting right there in the freezer next to you as you queue for the unpleasantness that is the unisex service station toilet, it's energising, it's refreshing and it's within even the scantiest budget. To take the troubling guesswork out of your selection, my family and I have heroically spent our holidays working our way through the contents of our local petrol station freezer, and here are our recommendations. Grab one of these, lower your sunburnt self into the passenger seat, close your eyes, take a bite and you might even believe you will live.
Of course this is also very good advice when on holiday road trips with fractious children, if that is your current horror story. At any age or any stage, dear reader – ice blocks got you.
10. Kāpiti Watermelon and Kaffir Lime Fruit Pop ($4.50)
This was awful. I mean, I know – kaffir lime – but still. Nobody enjoyed it. It was so unpleasant tasting, the children nicknamed it The Shoesicle because they said it tasted just like the smell that hits you when you open the Number 1 Shoes box holding your brand-new pair of school shoes, which seemed a fair and balanced appraisal for something so ludicrously overpriced.
9. Koola Bear, Blue Raspberry ($1.50)
If you want to know what a blue raspberry tastes like, it's like you took every Raro sachet and poured them all onto your tongue at once. The dominant flavour profile here is SWEET AF which makes sense because the dominant ingredient, riding proudly high above all the preservatives and colouratives and flavouratives, is sugar. My kids have wasted a lot of dollar coins on these – they are always in the freezer even though it says they are actually a drink? Does anyone ever sell them as a drink? I've never seen one at room temperature but it probably would stop the almost guaranteed leakage of these bastard bears, as they all seem to split their own packaging when frozen and then dribble all over your clothes/jandals as they defrost. Inhumanely sticky and stainy and impossible to get out of your car upholstery, don't even bother. Just buy a new car. Try making these evil icy treats an outdoors experience only. Or better yet, try stopping at a classier servo, like those ones that have espresso and sourdough sandwiches and a vegan samosa selection rather than a grimy freezer full of this crap. Try that, maybe.
8. Tip Top Popsicle Watermelon & Kiwifruit Wedgie Sorbet ($2)
This is so very pretty! And quite realistically kiwifruit and watermelon flavoured. Kind of. I mean, it doesn't really taste of anything much, but it does have a lovely soft sorbet texture. The 'choc' buttons as seeds don't really add anything except aesthetics, but all in all this is a fun – if bland – experience.
7. Tip Top Popsicle Sourlicious Passionfruit Sorbet ($2)
I quite liked this sorbet, and not just for the fabulous colours. It's a refreshing change to have something sour to choose in among all the very sweet freezer offerings, although a bit acidic. By the time you get down to the stick your lips will be pursed up like a very cold cat's bum. A bit too challenging for the typical hangover experience, perhaps.
6. Kāpiti Strawberry, Mint and Kiwifruit Fruit Pop ($4.50)
A lovely fresh mint tang to a delicate strawberry flavour. This is a nice ice block, no question. But is a frozen fruity sweet on a stick where you really need to concentrate your limited budget? Are you actually rich? Swimming in high-performance stocks and shares? Bought a north-facing house in a great school zone with strong street appeal and potential for a view when you add that extra turret? I didn't think so. Move along.
5. Tip Top Fruju Orange ($3)
Frujus were always going to feature heavily in the second half of this list. Yes, a bit predictable but the Fruju is a classic for a reason. As we enter the end of days, a Fruju is a comforting reminder of good ol' Kiwi summers when "hotter than hell" was an exaggeration, not a meteorological fact. While a grapefruit Fruju would be too cruelly bitter for a post-party stomach, and the pineapple one would be too sickly, an orange one is just the right balance of sweet syrup and citrus tang. Convince yourself it's mostly just orange juice (it is not) and you are therefore eating clean (that's not even a thing). A safe and comforting bet for all ages.
4. Streets Calippo Raspberry Pineapple ($2.50)
Calippos have a great name, an unwholesomely sugary taste and a mildly rude shape. You can make a lot of immature jokes about it sliding in and out of the cardboard tube and the licking lasting a long time. No mess, all satisfaction and a lot of fun. I feel maybe I should stop there.
3. Tip Top Popsicle Slushy Swirling Ice-Storm of Frozen Raspberry and Lemonade ($2.70)
Fact 1: Can be an ice block or an icy drink.
Fact 2: The name Swirling Ice-Storm of Raspberry and Lemonade has never been matched for sheer wit, honesty and audacity in the whole of ice block history.
Fact 3: Free spoon.
You don't need any more reasons to buy this.
2. Streets Paddle Pop Lemonade Icy Twist ($1.50)
What a classic, what a bargain, what an ice block. Doesn't mark your clothes or carpets, and buyable with couch change. Good for when you buy someone else's child an ice block and you feel the parents might be the kind who get shitty about you feeding their kid artificial food colouring because little Phashuneestah will get hyper or grow up to be an Act voter or something. My kids truly love these for the nostalgia value – this is the exact frugal treat you might expect when you get third in the Year 4 Whānau and Friends Athletics Day 50m Mixed Relay Race. An all-round winner in my books.
1. Tip Top Fruju Raspberry and Lime ($3)
I am really loving the raspberry Fruju right now, a top ice block with just enough raspberry sweetness to wrestle with that tangy lime tartness. It zings, it pings, it sings like a fruity little angel. Forget that frozen strawberry margarita – with lime prices tripled and your bank balance crippled, this is as close as you're going to get, and at $3 it may be the bargain of 2020. Buy with extreme confidence.