Tag Archives: Lake

Guest post by the author of “Lake Erie”

GUEST BLOGGER POST

REAL FROZEN CUSTARD

by Wilma Kahn

Real frozen custard―any custard―is a food made with eggs and a milk product. Hence, eggnog is an uncooked custard, flan is a cooked custard, pumpkin pie is a pumpkin custard, rice pudding is a rice custard, cheesecake is a cream-cheese custard, and ice cream made with cream and raw eggs is a frozen custard.

A new ice-cream stand in Portage claims to serve “real frozen custard.” This boast is puzzling, since salmonella has made raw eggs unsafe to eat. On the other hand, people still drink eggnog, whose eggs have somehow been rendered harmless. Perhaps they have been powdered, pasteurized, or zapped with radiation. Is this how eggs in this new “real frozen custard” are made safe? Or is it egg free and, therefore, not custard at all?

Despite misgivings, I decided to taste this frozen custard. The minuscule serving was overpriced, and the consistency was that of compressed pudding. Nevertheless, this place gets plenty of business, making me doubt that its customers have ever eaten the real thing. If they had, they would never accept this oafish substitute.

My mother loved frozen custard. In 1957 she began saving S&H Green Stamps to purchase her own ice-cream freezer. Week after week, my sister and I dutifully licked and pasted the stamps into their books until Mother finally took them to the S&H Service Store to trade for the ice-cream freezer.

From the outside, this machine resembled a tall grey bucket, while inside stood a steel canister, and within that, a series of paddles called dashers. On top of the machine was a heavy steel cap attached to a crank. How, I asked myself, could ice cream come out of that?

Mother assembled the ingredients―light cream, sugar, eggs, and vanilla. She beat them together in a big bowl and poured the mixture into the metal canister. She placed the canister in the bucket, inserted the dashers, clamped down the metal cap, and poured cracked ice and coarse salt all around the canister.

Word spread on the wind that Mrs. Kahn was making frozen custard. Neighborhood kids abandoned their games of hide-and-seek, their swimming, and their castles in the sand. They stood sandy-footed in swimsuits, watching us crank the freezer.

The cranking was necessary, Mother told us, to turn the dashers to keep ice lumps from forming in the custard. So we cranked and cranked as the cracked ice melted and was replenished then melted again. As my arms and those of my siblings wore out, other children pitched in. When the crank was nearly impossible to turn, Mother told us to keep cranking. Finally, the crank refused to budge. She removed the metal cap, and we gazed at the frozen custard inside.

My mother carried the canister to the kitchen, where she pulled out the dashers and placed them in a bowl. When she had scraped off most of the frozen treat, she passed the dashers to a lucky child to lick clean. Mother dished up servings into grey and yellow Melmac bowls then handed them around to all the children. By this time, our imaginations and hunger had grown into a giant icy bubble of excitement. I spooned into my mouth something pale yellow, cold, sweet, soft, slightly granular, melty―delicious.

Real frozen custard, as I know it, does not hunker down in a Styrofoam bowl, heavy as cowflop. It comes from my mother’s own ice-cream freezer. Real frozen custard, like life, is an ambrosia that takes planning, saving, cranking―time―and it is eaten quickly, before it melts, for it is as ephemeral as a snowflake on the tongue.

Mother’s Frozen Custard Recipe 

  • 1 gallon Half & Half  (4 quarts)
  • 6 eggs *   **
  • 3 ¾ c. sugar
  • 3 T. vanilla
  • 1 ½ t. salt

Beat eggs until light. Add sugar ¼ c. at a time. Add salt, H & H, and vanilla. Crank freeze.

* Most frozen custard recipes call for egg yolks, not whole eggs. Whole eggs may have given my mom’s frozen custard its distinctive taste and texture.

**Remember, raw eggs may carry salmonella, a potentially deadly illness.

Wilma Kahn is a writer and writing teacher living in Southwest Michigan. She wrote “Lake Erie,” which was posted on Writer Site and subsequently Freshly Pressed.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction

What Happened on My Birthday

Every year I ignore my birthday until people  close to me start to annoy me with it.

“What do you want for your birthday?”

“What are you going to do for your birthday?  Something special?”

Then, on my birthday, no matter how nice they are, I find something to make me cry.  (Does anyone else do this?) I vow to make today different.  So I am announcing my birthday instead of ignoring it.  Today, July 20, 2013, is my birthday.  On my Facebook wall I put up a photo and a video commemorating the day.

And for y’all, I’m sharing a very short story I published on Cowbird a year ago. In a previous post about The Space Race I mentioned this event, but here is the full story.

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Apollo 11 Moon Landing: July 20, 1969

I was sitting at the end of the dock, draggling my feet through the lake water. Sometimes my toes caught on marsh grass. Behind me, Dad and his friends were grilling hot dogs and burgers just outside the screened porch. I could smell the singed meat and hear their beer-fueled laughter.

Mom called us to the table. As we approached, she placed a steaming bowl of corn-on-the-cob on the oilcloth. Salads and paper plates had already been set out by the ladies.

Everyone gathered around the picnic table. I noticed Dad disappear into the house, but we all sat—causing the table to first lean to one side, then the other—and heaped our plates full. Everyone talked so fast and loud, excited by the summer’s heat and the waterskiing and, for the adults, the beer.

The ear of corn on my plate dripped butter and I longed to sink my teeth into it. As I went to bite, I remembered my braces. I hesitated because, at fourteen, I already felt awkward. Not yet pretty and feminine, but no longer a careless child. My features had grown large on my narrow face, and my skin shone like greasy wax paper.

I felt the wires bend as my teeth plowed into the cob. I made a mental note to keep my mouth closed so nobody could see all the corn stuck in my braces.

Dad carried our 9” portable TV to the table and plugged it in under the window to the kitchen. He seemed focused, as though he’d thrown off the beer effect.

On the screen, we watched the hazy shapes of astronauts positioning our flag on the moon. Everyone stopped talking. We heard a motorboat in the distance, off in the horizon, but up around the tiny television, everyone was drawn like moths to the porch light.

Eventually my mother remembered and brought out the white cake with fourteen candles staked like individual flagpoles. They turned down the volume to sing “Happy Birthday” to me, then turned it back up and listened to Houston’s excitement.

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WRITING PROMPT: Write about a memory you have of a historical event, but focus on your life during the event, not the event itself.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Essay, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

That Little House

By the time we moved to Crockett Street, it was our 4th residence, and I had just finished 4th grade.

Dad had built our previous house himself, a beautiful pink brick ranch, but the house cost too much to keep up.  It must have disappointed my father to leave behind the house he had put his heart into.  I don’t remember his feelings–or my mother’s–about the move, though, because I was caught up in my unhappiness.  It felt to me as if every time I started to get comfortable in a new school and new neighborhood, we had to move.

That’s when Dad decided to build a house we could take with us when we moved.

In the actual photo, you can make out a double rainbow
arcing down from the upper left.

It was a playhouse he erected at the rear boundary of our backyard. The eight-by-ten foot edifice was created out of old boards and roof tiles Dad re-purposed, sided with yellow siding he had scrounged from an empty lot.

Inside the playhouse, Dad built a bench on two sides and above those, up at the ceiling, the rafters formed long wooden pockets.  Up there, we stored secret agent supplies like decoder rings and invisibility raincoats and private notes listing the boys we liked, but eventually those things became irretrievable as the wasps set up nests and when Dad periodically removed those, the spiders took over.

Over time we discovered that during the summer the little house was too hot.  Within minutes we’d end up hauling the little table and chairs out onto the grass because we couldn’t bear to stay inside.  In the winter, the air was as icy inside as it was outside, but the snow and ice couldn’t get in, so we’d sit on the benches in our snow pants and stocking caps and play Candyland.  Our fingers froze as we pushed our tokens, but then we’d pull our hands back up into the sleeves of our jackets until it was our turn again.

After a while we lost interest in the playhouse and started walking up to the plaza for something to do.

The house still stood at the back lot line, a fading reminder of my childhood, until we discovered a new use for the little building.  When I entered junior high, boys were no longer just names on a list or our stinky younger brothers driving their trucks through muddy dirt piles.

My friends and I loved sleepovers, but with the playhouse we had a place to sleep and entertain friends without being actually inside our own houses.  Some of our first get-togethers with boys happened in that playhouse.  While it was all innocent fun ;), I’m pretty sure my parents thought I was still playing board games with my girlfriends.

While we lived in that house, Dad bought a piece of lake property on the shallow weedy end of the lake.  When we had to move to a new house, Dad strapped the playhouse onto a borrowed flatbed truck and hauled it out to the lake where we dubbed it “The Changing House.”

Inside we stored stretched out bathing suits, Styrofoam floaties, and boat cushions.  Daddy long leg spiders set up residence in there, too, wrapping everything in webs so that when we wanted to use something we had to make sure our hands were dry enough to wipe them clean or the webs would adhere to our skin until we jumped in the lake to clean off.

One night when I came in from a moonlit row with friends and needed some mosquito repellant, I caught my twelve-year-old brother in the little house  with the fourteen-year-old girl next door.  The playhouse was now in the hands of the “new generation.”

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I tried to do some online research about the history of playhouses, but I haven’t had a lot of luck so far.  One problem is that the term “playhouse” is used so often for a theatre.  There are also a lot of websites about making playhouses for children today–and that makes me happy that the playhouse is alive and well.

Playhouses are related to forts and treehouses.  Somebody had built a treehouse out by the dump which was behind our house, but it wasn’t my personal space like the playhouse.  Long before the playhouse came into my life, forts were important to my childhood, so I hope to write next about forts.

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This post is thanks to  Sarah Cedeño‘s comment on her own blog when we discussed my father’s bomb shelter.

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Research and prep for writing

Today’s reblog remembers my cousin Leah who I will always miss.

Luanne Castle's Writer Site

This poem features my dad’s Sunfish sailboat, which we sailed on our little lake in the 60s and early 70s.

Dad bought it used, but only gently so.  We put more miles on that boat in the first summer than it had accumulated with its previous owner.  Dad and I were calm and talked little when we sailed together.  When my best friend and I took it out our goal was to sail past the docks of the boys with the big motorboats.  It was when my cousin Leah came from Chicago to visit that the boat’s potential for capsizing was realized.

***

“Underwater Sisters” was published by Prairie Wolf Press Review in their Fall 2010 issue.

Underwater Sisters

You wanted to switch places with my brother.

I told you how bored you’d be in Michigan,

that we can’t bottle fireflies on July nights,

have to go to  bed during…

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Poetry

Elegy for My Cousin

This poem features my dad’s Sunfish sailboat, which we sailed on our little lake in the 60s and early 70s.

The Sunfish on Eagle Lake

Dad bought it used, but only gently so.  We put more miles on that boat in the first summer than it had accumulated with its previous owner.  Dad and I were calm and talked little when we sailed together.  When my best friend and I took it out our goal was to sail past the docks of the boys with the big motorboats.  It was when my cousin Leah came from Chicago to visit that the boat’s potential for capsizing was realized.

***

“Underwater Sisters” was published by Prairie Wolf Press Review in their Fall 2010 issue.

Underwater Sisters

You wanted to switch places with my brother.

I told you how bored you’d be in Michigan,

that we can’t bottle fireflies on July nights,

have to go to  bed during daylight, like Alaska.

You tipped me over ten times to one, the Sunfish

sail dragging me under to a place I could hide

to spook you, but you were never scared of anything.

You knelt on the overturned boat and laughed.

I think you laughed.  Or were you crying?

When Michigan was all underwater with slippery

plants and bullfrogs, snakes even, and my hair

fanned out on the surface, time eroded.

Maybe you harvested a dangerous lakeseed,

put it in your pocket, and forgot it for too long.

Did I not tell you I was kidding, hiding

under the sail, not drowning?

I wrote this poem about my cousin Leah who passed away unexpectedly nine years ago, in September 2003.

With my little cousin Leah

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Filed under Poetry