Ice Cream

When I was a kid both of my grandfathers cooked. The big thing that my father’s father made was ice cream. He would freeze water in cardboard half gallon milk cartons (Golden Gurnsey which was what my grandmother and he drank, which was richer, supposedly) and then would keep them cold in an old fashioned ice box — literally an icebox. If he didn’t have enough ice there was a machine close to Forest Park — a large, yellow metal contraption — into which you would deposit 50 cents and get a huge block of ice, which made sense, I suppose, if you still had an ice box like he did. This was the ’70’s and ’80’s, so I have a hard time believing that was the case, but maybe I just was blissfully unaware how others were living. I know not. The day before making the ice cream, my grandmother would make the mix, the flavor depending on what fruit was in season. Strawberry or peach was most common. She would make the mix too sweet because “the sweetness freezes out”. It was a simple recipe of milk, coffee cream, as opposed to half and half or heavy cream, which may have been a regional thing, but at any rate it had its own fat percentage, sugar, vanilla, the fruit, and maybe a raw egg or two. They did not make a custard. On the day of, we would chip the ice with an ice pick, and we used either a hand crank or an electric model. I think the hand crank eventually died, or my grandfather got tired of dealing with it. After it was done, we would lick the paddle, which in my opinion is still the best part. Today, when I make ice cream, I make a custard, that is it has eggs and I cook it, strain it, and chill it rapidly. But there is still a connection to my grandfather. It is interesting to me, what he wanted to teach me was Greek, which he could read; it never happened, but he taught me about making something deliberately.   My grandfather stopped hugging me when I was ten, telling me, “You’re too old for that!”  I knew the warmth in his handshake, but of course there was a certain sense of loss and longing.  Being able to be a part of the process, and paying attention to it, was important for both of us.  He spent his life as a lawyer, a Harvard Law graduate who at one point had the opportunity to serve on the Missouri Supreme Court. But that is not what I got from him.

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