One of my best childhood memories always happened during the family gatherings on my grandmother’s farm. There was, of course, the large dinner with wonderful food, but after the feast came the real magic. That was when my uncles would haul out the wooden barrel that would be used for making the best ice cream on the planet. There was nothing to plug in, just a silver cylinder in the middle, surrounded by rock salt, and a large hand crank on the side. Each member of the family would help with the cranking over the course of what seemed like hours to me, but was, in reality, less than 25 minutes. I remember my excitement when the cylinder was opened, revealing the glorious ice cream inside. Suddenly, there was no longer a kid’s table, just people of all ages sitting wherever they landed in the hot summer sun, enjoying a bowl of the best ice cream on the planet!
It wasn’t until I was older that I ended up cranking the ice cream for any length of time at all. As a little kid you would just get to turn the handle a couple of times, usually with an adult helping as well to avoid a pause in the steady circular motion. Ice cream was serious business and nobody wanted to mess things up. But getting to participate in the making of something so wonderful, was part of the treat. I’m convinced it made the ice cream taste better that way. The wonderful anticipation and the idea that it takes a village made it more special than anything else we ate that day. It was rare to get a second helping as most of it was gone in the initial pass, but it always felt like eating pure gold, so I would take small bites, hoping to make the moment last just a little bit longer. But, as with so many things from my childhood, there came a point in time the moment changed.
Modern technologies came along to replace older, inefficient ones and life was made “easier” for everyone, or so the commercials always said. I’ll never forget the day it happened. Nobody was gathering outside in the typical fashion and so I asked my grandmother when we would make the ice cream. She told me it was being made and would be ready shortly, pointing at something whirring in the kitchen sink. I looked over to see what appeared to be a plastic pink alien spaceship. When the alien was finished, the lid was opened and everyone came and hurriedly grabbed a scoop of ice cream, returning to conversations they were already having. The ice cream just didn’t taste as good that day. It turned out my favorite ingredient wasn’t the fresh cow’s milk, sugar, or vanilla, it was the little bit of time spent together as family. Everyone had a role and the end was a celebration! But the flavor of the experience had changed. And I’ll always miss that taste of real homemade ice cream.
About the Doodlewash
Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Indian Yellow, Carmine, Opera Rose, Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Deep. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon black ink in a little red cloth hardbound l’aquarelle journal I found in a Paris shop.