Do you have a food that brings back a lot of good memories? I do and believe it or not, it’s called ice cream. You know, that frozen concoction that literally melts in your mouth.
I have vivid memories of Sunday afternoons as a child when our whole family would go to the Dairy Queen in Lumberton and enjoy a cone of ice cream. I always seemed to get a vanilla cone and tried to make it last just as long as possible because I knew I wouldn’t get another one until the next Sunday rolled around. I don’t know why, but as much as I love chocolate, I’m really not that fond of chocolate ice cream (although, vanilla with chocolate syrup sounds really good about now).
It would be nice to be able to go back in time and relive some of those carefree, ice cream-eating days! When you’re a child, you just don’t realize how lucky you are to be part of a loving family that takes you on little trips that become a weekly tradition, which are special just because you do them together.
After I was married, it seemed as if ice cream again became a Sunday afternoon tradition when we started making homemade ice cream at Mom and Dad’s house. We sometimes had what my sister-in-law Teresa called an ice cream supper. I personally couldn’t ever make a meal out of ice cream like she could, but I couldn’t put it away like she could either. Ice cream always seems to fill me up really quickly and I just can’t make a meal out of it. However, I’ve never seen anybody who could eat homemade ice cream like Teresa could, either — and never gain a pound.
If we all got together to make homemade ice cream, it took more than one churn to feed all of us. My favorite back then was always strawberry. Mom would take some fresh ones if she had them and mash them up to put in the ice cream mixture. If she didn’t have fresh ones, she always seemed to have some in the freezer she’d take out and use. She would always taste the mixture to check and see if it needed anything else before she poured it into the churn. She never used eggs in hers, just milk out of the jug, evaporated milk, vanilla extract, sugar, and whatever fruit she had (such as strawberries or bananas). We tried other kinds — such as pineapple and even blueberry — but it seemed like we always came back to the strawberry as the favorite for most of us. Sometimes we’d make plain ol’ vanilla and then have a variety of stuff to add in, such as the strawberries, bananas, and the list could go on and on.
We’d put the dasher inside the silver container and then pour the mixture in and put the top on it. Then we’d place some ice and ice cream salt around it, and layer it like that until it was almost full. Next, we’d lock it all in with the cranking mechanism. We’d add a little more ice and salt on top of it and then the men and kids would take turns as the crank had to be turned and turned until the ice cream was firm. Lots of times, the kids would all be eager to start out helping turn the crank but would usually be ready for someone else to take over before the ice cream finishing making. Since there were 10 grandchildren in the family, there were plenty of hands available that could help out. When the crank got hard to turn, the ice cream inside would be set up just right for good eating.
Of course, when it was time for tasting the finished product, we had lots of volunteers to be first in line. Mom always said she liked to clean the dasher off herself. She would take it out and set it down in a pan and then eat the ice cream off of it. That did seem to be the best part because the ice cream was always firm around the dasher and a lot of the fruit would get caught in the blades. Yum, yum!
Since Mom and Dad have been gone, I don’t remember the rest of us ever getting together to make homemade ice cream. Those afternoons of sitting around together and talking, making ice cream, and playing croquette disappeared many years ago but the memories still remain. The sound of the voices and the laughter, have all faded away like notes of music carried away by the wind. The memories of those days, however, will always remain in my mind as happy times spent together that can’t be brought back again.
Several years ago, my husband and I bought a new ice cream churn that can be used by plugging it in to electricity or it can be turned by hand. It seems when our family is here visiting, however, that we never get around to making homemade ice cream. What we usually do when we want homemade ice cream is take them to The Berry Patch and they really love that. Everybody can get whatever kind they prefer and that way everyone’s happy. I hope at least they’ll have good memories of eating ice cream together even if they didn’t turn the crank to help make it.
Earlier, I mentioned the ingredients that Mom used to make homemade ice cream. Looking back, however, I think the greatest ingredient of all that she used was love!
Azalea R. Bolton is a resident of Richmond County, member of the Richmond and Anson County Historical Societies and co-author of the book “Just Passing Time Together” with her husband, J.A. Bolton.