For Father’s Day I bought Mr. Fantastic an ice cream maker. I emailed my mom and asked for my Great Grandma Jackson’s ice cream recipe.
This is holy ground in my family.
Growing up, there was only one kind of homemade ice cream in the world: Grandma Jackson’s. A creamy, lemony-vanilla concoction we all held in great reverence. The first bowl was to be eaten without any chocolate syrup or added goodies, for it was holy indeed.
|The Jackson Family in 1978
Grandma Jackson is in the center, I am on my mom’s lap on the right
I had some aunts who had the audacity to add things like peaches and strawberries to the ice cream as it mixed…. They were never considered real members of the family for this blasphemy.
Sure, you could buy cookies and cream ice cream, or neopolitan, or fancy fudgy choco-chip galore. Enjoy any kind of cheap, mass-produced, store-bought ice cream you might like to try. But if you made ice cream from scratch, you made Grandma Jackson’s.
The recipe is like decoding hieroglyphics. It says things like, “Add one half gallon of whole milk. You won’t need the whole thing, fill it up to the line, or the top of the dasher. I never use all of it.” Then there’s this in the ingredients, “whipping cream, optional- I always use”. (Exactly how much optional whipping cream does she always use, for goodness sake?)
Old recipes like this one remind me that the art of cooking used to be passed on while standing in the kitchen with people you love. You watched, mimicked, wrote down estimations and calculated based on appearance and feel. Now, we learn from television shows and google advice when we get stumped. Grandma Jackson’s recipe was taught to my mom by either Grandma herself or by one of her daughters.
But here I stand with a digital image of the recipe emailed from California to Texas. I have pulled it up on a computer, laptop, iPad, and even my phone while shopping for ingredients. I am using an ice cream maker that doesn’t use rock salt or ice to freeze this old-fashioned goodness. Times have certainly changed.
I hope Grandma is okay watching from heaven as her recipe floats around through the air from phones to computers. She never would have imagined how the world would change a lifetime or two after hers.
When I dish out this love passed on to all of us, I will teach my children the holiness of this sweet treat. The first bowl will be savored in its most pure form. I will tell them the story about my dad and all his cousins taking shifts, laboriously turning the crank on Grandma Jackson’s ice cream maker. They will laugh when they hear about the time it was taking hours to freeze, and how they finally figured out they had been turning the crank the wrong way.
Some day, I will pass this beautiful recipe on to my children. Who knows, maybe they will beam me a sample of their first batch from their apartment in the sky. They may have to decode the recipe and figure out how to make it work in some new-fangled contraption that freezes things using solar power.
Then, they will take a spoonful of Grandma Jackson’s ice cream, feed it to their baby for the first time, and they will know what I know. Family recipes pull your heart home and remind you that the ones you love are what matters most. Grandma Jackson gave us more than ice cream; she gave us each other.
That is a holy gift indeed.