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“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?”

The foreman of the jury stood. “We have, your honor. We find the defendant guilty as charged.”

I glanced at my lawyer, but he refused to look at me. He exhibited a poker face and slumped shoulders. Poor sap. I knew he’d never get me off. The forensic evidence was overwhelming. The police had confiscated everything when they raided the house, the ingredients, the lab instruments, and the final product. My fingerprints were everywhere.  I was hoping the judge would be merciful. It was my first offense. My parents were hoping for probation or community service. Instead, he imposed the maximum sentence; five years in prison for rehabilitation on a Vegan diet. I couldn’t imagine anything more repulsive. My mother began to sob hysterically.

If you are to understand the antecedents of my crime, we need to go back to my childhood before California became a Police State. I blame it on my parents. I grew up in Beverly Hills, the only son of two physicians. My dad is a radiologist. Mom, believe it or not, is a cardiologist. She’s worried that she’ll be defrocked by the American Board of Cardiology, because of the evidence given at my trial. Both my parents used to be Foodies.

Normal kids had pizza and fried chicken in front of the TV for dinner. Not at my house. Dinner was practically a religious ritual. We have a kitchen with professional-grade appliances to rival a four-star restaurant. I grew up eating things for dinner like grilled ahi tuna in grapefruit sauce, or a rack of lamb glazed with a balsamic reduction. My dad’s wine cellar has three thousand bottles and serves the perfect beverage with every meal. I was allowed to start developing my palate at a very young age, and by the time I was in junior high could tell the difference between a St, Emilion, Château de Lussac, and a Chateau Canon. I’ve never confessed that I prefer the taste of beer.  

One of the family legends is that when I was five, my mother’s nurse asked me to describe the kind of girl I would like to marry. I said that she would have to be able to make a good vinaigrette. Now I can turn out a stellar salad dressing all by myself. It’s the principle of the thing. How could I ever spend my life with a woman who couldn’t differentiate between aged balsamic vinegar and bottled dressing?

Things began to go downhill when I was in High School. It started with trans fat. The government decided that trans fat was the enemy and that it was the government’s job to protect us morons from the disastrous health consequences of bad cholesterol. First, New York City, and then the state of California, banned restaurants from using trans fats in preparing food.  After that, the government demanded that all menus have calorie information printed, so you could ruin your appetite before you even ordered.  

The next target was schools. No trans fats were allowed in the cafeteria or the vending machines. California led the parade but soon, the attack on trans fats went national. My mom approved, though she didn’t understand why the government didn’t ban tobacco along with fats. Mom has always been a bit naïve about the power of the political lobby.

Once the government got rid of trans fats, it turned to sugar, a major contributor to diabetes and obesity. Suddenly, the only available drinks in the school vending machines were non-fat milk and bottled water. Kids had to bring their Coke from home. This became more difficult as the price went up, due to the State “use tax” imposed on all soft drinks and bottled juices with sugar. Leave it to the governor to find a new way to close the budget shortfall.

The next target was salt. Food companies tried to cooperate and decrease the amount they were using, but have you EVER tasted salt-free potato chips?

From there, things escalated rapidly. In a return to World War I, families were issued ration coupons for sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate, ice cream, red meat, and anything else good to eat. You could, of course, purchase an unlimited amount of Splenda, egg whites, “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter,” non-fat, sugar-free ice milk, and vegetarian hamburger patties. My mother gave up baking and my dad refused to open a good bottle of Pinot with anything vegetarian. Pretty soon McDonald’s was replaced by McVegan. Have you ever tried to eat a piece of cheesecake made with tofu?

It was only a short step to the final insult—the food prescription. Certain key items could be dispensed only with a doctor’s signature. These included ice cream and milk chocolate. Supermarkets were required to keep these items under lock and key, to dispense them only with the proper paperwork, and to keep track of purchases by computer so that you could only refill at specific intervals. Any store that sold these items without a prescription was subject to a stiff fine, and three offenses made it a felony. I know of this because of my part-time job as a box boy.

This requirement was a mixed blessing for physicians. My mom’s patients had to come in for annual physicals if they had a prayer of eating anything they liked, and she made it a point of not writing sugar prescriptions for her diabetics or allowing her coronary artery patients to eat red meat. Unfortunately, this led to some seriously pissed-off patients who went doctor-shopping for someone more reasonable. Not surprisingly, some docs saw an entrepreneurial opportunity and began to dispense prescriptions for a fee, without requiring a visit or an examination. Websites like and sprang up rapidly outnumbering medical marijuana shops. None of the patients complained to the Medical Board, so it took them a while to catch on and even longer to agree on standards and disciplinary action. In the meantime, doctors made a few bucks, not controlled by the PPOs or the government.

I was sitting around the fraternity house with two of my buddies, Marty and Al, bemoaning the lack of a decent chocolate ice cream. Despite my access to prescriptions, and my efforts to try out everything still available, the stuff had become prohibitively expensive and tasted horrible. Most of the small companies that made the good gourmet stuff had folded. 

“You’re the foodie,” Marty said. “Why don’t you make us some decent stuff?”

“Yeah,” said Al, “like bootlegging during Prohibition.”

I suddenly had a flashback to the superb, homemade ice cream that my mother used to make on July 4th weekends with the fancy Lello Musso Lussino ice cream maker. She hadn’t made it in years, and I wondered if the equipment was still available. A brilliant idea was beginning to form in the back of my brain.

Naturally, the most critical ice cream ingredients, sugar, and cream, were rationed, but items like unsweetened dark chocolate (with its nice antioxidants), coffee, and fresh fruit were not. The guys and I pooled our ration coupons for the sugar and cream and voted on the first flavor. Mocha chocolate chip was the big winner.

The following weekend, I made a surprise visit home and checked out the kitchen. The Lello was nowhere to be found. By excavating the garage, however, I found it in a location where it was unlikely to be missed. I put it in the trunk of my car and decided not to ask permission to borrow it.  

Late that night, in the empty frat house kitchen, we whipped up and finished off a quart of the best ice cream we’d had in years. We were in heaven and couldn’t wait to try the strawberries. However, we decided that it would be wise to be discreet. The house kitchen was too accessible, and we didn’t want anyone else to find out what we were up to. For the next few weeks, we confined our activities to my room. 

There were a few problems associated with our feasts. We had no freezer storage, so we couldn’t make enough for a week. We had to eat everything we made, which was a large amount of ice cream, even for three teenage guys to gobble down in one sitting.   

Now understand, there is nothing illegal, (not yet anyway) about using your cream and sugar rations to make ice cream for private use. The illegal part began when Al’s roommate George discovered our activities and offered us thirty bucks to whip up a pint of mint chocolate chip for his girlfriend’s birthday. Pretty soon, we accepted orders from all our fraternity brothers and used their ration cards for the ingredients. It was apparent that this could be quite a profitable endeavor, but clearly, not in my room. Our fraternity brothers were not the only college students who loved good ice cream.

We agreed to put things on an expanded footing for the fall semester. We rented a small house, off campus, with a big refrigerator, and purchased an extra used freezer for the garage. We also got a great deal on several used ice cream makers, which we bought for cash. Al, Marty, and I spent the better part of the weekends churning as much ice cream, in as many interesting flavors as possible. Our fraternity brothers handled marketing, orders, and distribution. The price of a pint was $30 plus the use of the recipient’s sugar and cream ration for the week. Our brothers got a percentage of the profits, plus a discount on their personal ice cream. We made French chocolate, Raspberry chip, Strawberry, Fresh Peach, Coffee Liquor, Rum Chocolate, Pineapple-Vanilla—you get the picture. Ordering was accomplished via our website: Students would pay for the “hours of tutoring” they needed at $30 per hour and would provide contact information so that our “tutors” could arrange orders and delivery by phone. Everything worked like a charm for about six months.

We were undone by Facebook. Some moron waxed eloquently about our fabulous Maple-Cashew-Pecan Double Vanilla ice cream and posted a photo of himself spooning it out of the carton.  Worse, he mentioned the website so his friends could get some too.  Some prick in the Student Soy Club must have reported it. We didn’t find out about the Facebook posting till a week later when the police raided the house.

They took the freezer, the ice cream makers, and worst of all, twenty quarts of our finest ice cream. I hope it melted before they got it to headquarters. They arrested the three of us and took us all to LA County lockup. 

My parents went ballistic. Not only was I in jail, but the police refused to return their very expensive Lello. They bailed me out and hired a high-profile defense lawyer to get me off. Unfortunately, he did a very mediocre job. My parents didn’t check him out carefully enough, and it turned out that the guy was a rabid health food nut.

Anyway, here I am in jail, eating tofu and being trained in a useful occupation. The State is hoping to rehabilitate me. I suggested they train me to be a chef, but that didn’t go over well. God forbid prison food should taste good. They decided instead to train me to become an accountant, though I can’t imagine who would want to hire an accountant with a felony record. Much as I hate math, the skills will come in handy. When I get out, I’m opening an ice cream parlor. It’s perfectly legal if the customers have a prescription. My fraternity brothers are planning to invest, and Marty’s older brother will have graduated from medical school by then. We’ve got it covered. 



Paula Bernstein is the author of the nine-volume, medically-themed Hannah Kline Mysteries. Her short stories have been included in the Anthologies, LAst Resort, and Avenging Angelinos, and will be published in the upcoming A New York State of Crime. She has been an active member of Sisters in Crime and served as President of the Los Angeles Chapter and chair of the California Crime Writers Conference. 

Her nonfiction publications include Carrying a Little Extra, A Guide to Pregnancy for the Plus-Sized Woman, and Woman to Woman, A Gynecologist’s Guide to Your Body.

Her website is


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