August 27, 2013

In and Out of the Quad-Cities: We’re Getting Cranky

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

We’re Getting Cranky – Homemade Ice Cream’s Impact on Global Piece (of Pie)

You folks have no idea of the painstaking process we use in planning out these Pulitzer Prize-less bits of Journalistic puttering. To give you an idea, this month we herded our staff of interns, proof readers and literary agents along with our gabardine-garbed guru into the big conference room adjoining the employee lounge at the 50+ Lifestyles building. We tossed out a few of our best ideas for today’s article, thinking it would be pretty easy to come up with a topic.

Little did we anticipate the time/topic conundrum we were about to enter; so many topics, so little space. Just when we’re ready to launch off on the official topic of the month, another one appeared out of thin air. The root problem is simple. This time of year is packed to overflowing with activities. This month was the worst and … We were stuck.

Our normal team of collaborators simmered in a mental meltdown. We had a cerebral vapor lock going on and needed to do something about it. About that time somebody said, “We have all makings of big trouble churning around here.” It may have been the ringing of the familiar words, “makings and churning.” Or, it might have been stomach rumblings which sounded like “ice creeeeemmm, ice creeeeeeammmm.” Either way, we came to a cosmic conclusion.

Summer is just a giant parfait of events held together by a heaping helping of homemade ice cream.

We’re not saying our lives revolve around home blend ice cream, but a summer without the low pitched grumble of a hand turned freezer against salty ice would just be a collection of hot weather. It’s a circle of life. Winter turns into Spring. The weather gets warmer, and sometime thereafter, CTH Frank performs the mysterious ceremony of climbing to the top shelf in the garage and gingerly passing down the box of rock salt and that marvelous ice cream machine.

We are in a constant quest for the perfect ice cream recipe. Gail describes her vision of the proper ice cream using words like, sweet, gritty, bending vanilla beans and solidly soft. And, armed with these north stars we set out for more varieties.

In the did you know department; a quick Google search using the words “ice cream recipe” yields over 77 million results (really)! All of these are variations on the same theme. Milk, sugar, cream and vanilla are the most common ingredients. Our most recent concoction was an online Paula Dean recipe that included sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, sugar and whole milk. In our own version, Current Trophy Husband (CTH) Frank replaced the whole milk with heavy cream, and added a half dozen pasteurized eggs. The results were heavenly, but lacked the grittiness of Gail’s dreams.

Speaking of Gail’s dreams… Did we ever mention that Gail once held the lofty position of ice cream man? Well, actually it would be ice cream lady, but you get the drift. Back in her younger days, she zigzagged through the back streets of Oklahoma City with “Round and Round the Mulberry Bush” blasting through the truck mounted speakers. One can only wonder if was the repeated exposure to kiddy music or over doses of Ice Cream Rocket Bars that molded her personality. Not to change the subject or anything, but back to the gritty story already in progress.

Back when we were kids, the “art of ice creaming” involved muscled men standing around a wooden bucket handily turning a big crank. If the weather was ultra-hot, sweat formed drippy beads on their foreheads as they talked about their favorite baseball team. Today, the machines have electric motors. Manual cranking has been replaced with the sweet low rpm drone of a little motor. Our grandkids watch the action, but it lacks the charm of Uncle Merle “talking trash” and turning the crank. So after a few seconds, they return to texting their friends and listening to the world through an iPod.

For some reason, creamy home-brewed treats are falling from grace in American life. We wonder if the whole thing isn’t a commie plot, but we thought the same thing when they closed the last drive-in movie theatre in town. That’s another story. Thankfully, we have a few places that offer a constant flow of homemade ice cream regardless of the season. The Crane and Pelican up in Le Claire churns out homemade ice cream every day. In a pinch, Country Style in Moline cooks up a mighty fine ice cream, too.

We could go on and on with the ice cream story, but we have to head off for a quick cone. Before we shuffle off into the early fall sunset, allow us to share a childhood memory. It was the chant of a road side seller. “I scream. You scream. We all scream for Ice Cream.”

Happy September.