SUMMERTIME FOOD AND FRIENDS 7/30/13

Summertime and food are synonymous with one another. What can be more enjoyable than gathering with friends for good conversation while enjoying a good plate of food? In the south food is known as ‘vittles,’ which means food supplies for humans.
My mother gave me a free hand in the kitchen when I was growing up. She was a seamstress par excellence, but I had absolutely no interest in sewing. My theory was that I couldn’t eat anything I sewed, so why bother. Of course, this was back in the days when food was considered a cheap commodity. Most folks grew what they ate. My Dad and I always had a big garden. We were what he called, “sharecroppers.” But, if mom needed something from the grocery store it meant I would have to take a hike about a block away to the corner store for her. We didn’t have such things as supermarkets when I was growing up. There wasn’t a Wal-Mart or King Soopers anywhere. Really!!
The corner grocery store was a great gathering place. I remember the owners, Bud and Everette, had chairs placed around the old pot bellied stove that stood in the corner of the store. On a cold winter’s day, if you were lucky and got there early enough you could get one close enough to lean up against the wall while you sat in it. They were the prime seats in the house.
I always got a free piece of penny candy when I bought something there. The corner grocery store was not only a place to purchase food, it was a great place to get change for a one dollar bill, find out what was going on in the neighborhood, or just be treated to a great story.
Cooking always fascinated me. I learned to read recipes then add my own touches and changes to them. Our neighbors were the beneficiaries of my ‘test kitchen’ goodies. My reputation as a good cook grew throughout the neighborhood. I often received requests to bake a special birthday or anniversary cake.
When I began my career as babysitter, the children on our street would beg their parents to hire me because they knew we would be cooking hamburgers, baking cookies or doing something fun in the kitchen. Anyone willing to turn me loose in their kitchen knew they would be rewarded with something tasty. My love for cooking spilled over into my college days, where I became known for organizing cookouts among classmates.
My cooking skills served me well when I had my children. All three of my boys and even my daughter seemed to have hollow legs. Of course, they each had their favorites, but my chicken spaghetti was the all-time winner. Each of my sons made sure his wife got that recipe when they married.
There is something to be said for being on the deck while the food is grilling. There’s nothing quite like the chatter of friends and family as the food is grilling and then sharing the food hot off the grill. The key to successful grilling is to keep it simple. Try cutting some fresh veggies and placing them on some foil; sprinkle some a bit of dry onion soup, add some olive oil and wrap them tightly before placing them on the grill.
For dessert nothing beats a tub of homemade ice cream. Of course, today you just plug the freezer in and in about 30 minutes that ice cream is begging to be served.
Summertime, grilling and homemade ice cream just go together. As they say in the South, “Lawsy me, honey chil’! There jest aint nuthin’ better”!!

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CELEBRATE JULY 4 WITH HOMEMADE ICE CREAM.. 14/07/04

With the emphasis these days on homemade stuff, I wonder if anyone will have that wonderful treat I always enjoyed on the Fourth of July when I was a kid. There’s nothing quite like a big bowl full of homemade ice cream.
My dad and I would journey down to the ice house where he would buy a big chunk of ice. We put it in one of mom’s washtubs and covered it with heavy quilts to minimize the melting.
It was always my job to get the White Mountain freezer out of the garage, along with the rock salt, wash them and set them by the back steps. Then, I anxiously watched as my mother mixed up that wonderful creamy recipe and poured it into the canister.
My mouth would begin salivating just thinking about how good that icy-cold concoction would be. After filling the canister, she would take it out to my dad, who carefully placed it in the freezer, along with some chipped ice, then add some rock salt.
He would continue the layering process all the way to the top. Then he would place the churning mechanism in the slots on each side, fold one of mom’s small quilts and set it on top.
It was my job to sit on top of the quilt while he churned the freezer. Of course, we would stop during the churning process to add more ice and rock salt.
I never quite understood why we kept adding rock salt to the ice when it only made the ice melt faster. Dad told me it was because the rock salt made the ice colder.
I figured the ice cream would freeze faster if we didn’t stop to add more ice and rock salt. I thought the ice and rock salt companies were just out to make more money by selling us more ice and salt than was necessary.
My dad assured me that using rock salt made the ice colder, making the ice cream freeze faster. All I knew was that it seemed like an eternity before he would stop churning and declare it was ready, so I could off that freezing cold quilt. I thought my behind was frozen to the quilt. In reality, it took only 20 to 30 minutes, and when it was ready, so was I. Oh, my goodness, how that creamy taste and smooth texture tickled my palate.
I miss those days. I often wonder what ever happened to that old White Mountain freezer. It sure made many a quart of ice cream and many happy memories for this kid. My guess is that somewhere in the Ozarks it is probably full of flowers sitting on somebody’s deck. I hope not. On this Fourth of July, I hope someone somewhere is sitting on top of it, freezing their backside off, waiting for their dad to declare the gourmet ice cream to be ready.
Hmmm—I wonder if I can get the Mr. to sit on top of our ice cream freezer this year.