How Life Wrote My Recipe for Mani’s Peach Ice Cream
several hours to harden in the freezer
a lifetime to ripen
a summer morning
2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream
juice from 2 lemons
loss and new beginnings
2 cups sugar
a well used ice-cream maker
5 generations who first taste this recipe as children
ripe peaches (still warm from the sun, if possible), cut in small chunks
a summer dusk
Best served with:
stories of summer memories
heirloom green glass dessert cups
a new friend
Begin as a small child on a summer day, stuck in the un-air-conditioned Chevy for a two-hour drive home after visiting grandparents in Washington, Indiana. Use a pinch of patience when your mother stops at a roadside stand in Davies County farmland. Let her show you how to push your thumb into a red-amber peach to see if it is soft and ripe. Listen to her story of being taught the same thing as a child and her promise of making you something you’ve never had before, your great-grandmother’s homemade peach ice cream.
At home, become lost in play. Pretend the shag-bark hickory shade is a Hoosier pioneer’s log cabin where you and your sister rock babies in cradles. Come inside, hungry and thirsty. The old electric ice-cream maker is almost done churning. When it stops, lick the soft creaminess from the beater your mother offers and ask for more. Use more patience when she says the ice cream must harden in the freezer.
Melt into the summer afternoon. Forget your impatience, your longing, even time itself. Become part breeze, part dream, part sun, sprinkler, wet grass and changing light until it is dinner-time. Eat something ordinary, disappointing, something you’ve had many times, like lima beans and Spaghettios. After dinner, take a bath and put on your cotton pajamas, then come out into the dusk on the porch, yawning. Your mother will bring you a bowl of the forgotten ice cream, made - like she promised - from her grandmother’s recipe.
Take your first bite. As it coats your mouth with tart softness that lingers, your mother will say what you are thinking, “Tastes like summer, doesn’t it?”
Nod your head tasting peonies and twilight and dew, tomorrow’s questions and yesterday’s lightening in each spoonful. Fall asleep with your mother’s stories of churning this ice cream by hand, the old fashioned way, of her grandmother who woke the whole house in the middle of a summer night when the circus came through town.
Eat Mani’s peach ice cream summer after summer, when you are four, five, seven, until you are a teen, and things happen, everyone is busy, the ice-cream maker breaks and you don’t think about what used to be because there is too much future to meet. College. Travel. New flavors. New cities. Plans never to return to the Midwest.
And then, years later, return anyway. Return looking for what might endure, after so much change - change that comes with bruised and salty loss and leaves you no longer child (though you don’t feel grown-up).
One day, after you are married, and a mother of a little girl, this recipe will arrive in your suburban Indianapolis mailbox, sent unasked for by your sister, who, with the homesickness of one who left but never returned, remembered to ask your mother for the recipe.
You don’t own an ice cream maker, so you buy one. The first time you make the recipe with hard supermarket peaches and no one who listens to your stories, you taste more sadness than sweetness in it. But try again, next summer and the next, telling your growing daughter about how, decades ago, the cream and milk for this recipe came from cows on your mother’s family farm, and then later, when you were a girl, from the milk truck that delivered milk in glass bottles each week. About buying Indiana peaches from the roadside stand. About mourning doves, the evening porch, the midnight circus.
A June will come when your daughter begs you to make this recipe, and you tell her to be patient, the peaches are not ripe. And then later, in August, family will come visiting from Davies County, and they will bring bags overflowing with large, red-amber peaches bought at a roadside stand. So ripe that you, your daughter, your gray-haired mother and father stand at the kitchen sink to eat the peaches because their juice spills between fingers, runs down arms, drips from chins and no one wants to stop and wipe the juice away. You just want to take one liquid bite after the next.
That morning, buy organic milk and cream from a nearby dairy. And then pull the ice-cream maker (your second because you wore out the first in summers past) from the hard-to-reach top kitchen shelf. Combine milk, cream, lemon juice, sugar in the metal canister. Surround it with ice and rock salt. Start the electric mixer going. When the ice cream is so thick that the beater can’t churn, take out the beater and share it with your daughter, licking the cold sweetness from it. Spoon the ice cream into a plastic container, folding into it small chunks of just harvested Indiana peaches. Put the ice cream into the freezer to harden. Wait impatiently until dusk.
Invite over a new friend with whom you’ve never shared this recipe. Serve your family, your friend, a large scoop in your great-grandmother’s delicate green glass dessert cups. Watch their faces as the ice cream melts in their mouths. See your daughter watching everyone too.
Let her say the words. The words your mother said to you. The words you’ve said to your daughter with the first spoonful each year. The words that are hers now, part of the magic she is inheriting.
Tastes like summer, doesn’t it?
Liza Hyatt is the author of The Mother Poems (Chatter House Press, 2014), Under My Skin, (WordTech Editions, 2012), Seasons of the Star Planted Garden (Stonework Press, 1999), and Stories Made of World (Finishing Line Press, 2013). She has been published in various regional, national, and international journals and anthologies including Reckless Writing, Tipton Poetry Journal, Contemporary American Voices, Indy Writes Books, Painted Bride Quarterly, THEMA, Pudding Magazine, Flying Island, Branches Magazine, and England’s Tears in the Fence. In 2006, Hyatt received an Individual Artist Project Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.
Liza is an art therapist (ATR-BC, LMHC) and adjunct professor at both St. Mary of the Woods College and Herron School of Art and Design. She hosts a monthly poetry reading at the Lawrence Art Center on the east side of Indianapolis. She is the author of Art of the Earth: Ancient Art for a Green Future (Authorhouse, 2007) an art-based eco-psychology workbook. For more information, visit www.lizahyatt.com