Tag Archives: nostalgia

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

Does Anne Sexton Still Deliver A Fairy Tale Punch?

Fairy tales serve as powerful archetypes for me.

I’ve written before how the Little Red Riding Hood image is at the center of the story I am shaping into a book-length memoir (link to post).  The girl, the wolf, the grandmother, the danger, and the huntsman are all there.  In my post which describes how I found out I am a Highly Sensitive Person, I wrote about the function of “The Princess and the Pea,” and how I go through my life-like the girl who feels the pea underneath all those mattresses and featherbeds. In my last post, I wrote about my terror at meeting Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty.

So it’s probably not a surprise that I love to read different versions of these tales. There are a lot of movies which remake the old stories. Ever After might be one of the most popular, but there have been many versions of the Snow White and Cinderella stories.  If you want to watch a really creepy Red Riding Hood tale, check out Reese Witherspoon in Freeway.

Because the majority of these tales originated either from the ancient oral tradition of storytelling or from storytellers who lived hundreds of years ago, the cultural mores and expectations are different from those of today.  That’s why seeing them through modern eyes, such as witnessing the Rapunzel character in Tangled showing herself to be the opposite of the helpless princess of days gone by, can be very satisfying.

Library shelves are jam-packed with picture book versions of these traditional stories which have been re-told, either by staying true to the original or by updating to conform to today’s viewpoints.  There are also feminist versions for adults, such as are found side by side with the classic versions in Maria Tatar’s The Classic Fairy Tales.

Some of my favorites are the poems by Anne Sexton.  She based each poem on a Grimm Brothers fairy tale.  Note: these are not Disney versions.

Sexton passed away in 1974, and her book of fairy tale poems, titled Transformations, was published in 1972. So there are some dated references.  At the very ending of “Cinderella,” Cindy and the prince are described this way:

Cinderella and the prince

lived, they say, happily ever after,

like two dolls in a museum case

never bothered by diapers or dust,

never arguing over the timing of an egg,

never telling the same story twice,

never getting a middle- aged spread,

their darling smiles pasted on for eternity.

Regular Bobbsey Twins.

That story.

Clearly, to understand the reference, a reader needs to know who the Bobbsey Twins were. The Bobbsey Twins books were a series developed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate in the early 20th century.  The twins were two sets of twins which comprised, with their parents, the Bobbsey family. They were a younger reader version of books like the Nancy Drew books, which were also Stratemeyer books.  The term “Bobbsey Twins” has been used for decades to mean two people who are a lot alike, such as “two peas in a pod.”

For fun, here’s the full text of Sexton’s Snow White version.  See what you think–is it still relevant?

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

by Anne Sexton

No matter what life you lead
the virgin is a lovely number:
cheeks as fragile as cigarette paper,
arms and legs made of Limoges,
lips like Vin Du Rhône,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes
open and shut.
Open to say, 
Good Day Mama,
and shut for the thrust
of the unicorn.
She is unsoiled.
She is as white as a bonefish.

Once there was a lovely virgin
called Snow White.
Say she was thirteen.
Her stepmother,
a beauty in her own right,
though eaten, of course, by age,
would hear of no beauty surpassing her own.
Beauty is a simple passion,
but, oh my friends, in the end
you will dance the fire dance in iron shoes.
The stepmother had a mirror to which she referred--
something like the weather forecast--
a mirror that proclaimed 
the one beauty of the land.
She would ask,
Looking glass upon the wall,
who is fairest of us all?
And the mirror would reply,
You are the fairest of us all.
Pride pumped in her like poison.

Suddenly one day the mirror replied,
Queen, you are full fair, 'tis true,
but Snow White is fairer than you.
Until that moment Snow White
had been no more important
than a dust mouse under the bed.
But now the queen saw brown spots on her hand
and four whiskers over her lip
so she condemned Snow White
to be hacked to death.
Bring me her heart, she said to the hunter,
and I will salt it and eat it.
The hunter, however, let his prisoner go
and brought a boar's heart back to the castle.
The queen chewed it up like a cube steak.
Now I am fairest, she said,
lapping her slim white fingers.

Snow White walked in the wildwood
for weeks and weeks.
At each turn there were twenty doorways
and at each stood a hungry wolf,
his tongue lolling out like a worm.
The birds called out lewdly,
talking like pink parrots,
and the snakes hung down in loops,
each a noose for her sweet white neck.
On the seventh week
she came to the seventh mountain
and there she found the dwarf house.
It was as droll as a honeymoon cottage
and completely equipped with
seven beds, seven chairs, seven forks
and seven chamber pots.
Snow White ate seven chicken livers
and lay down, at last, to sleep.

The dwarfs, those little hot dogs,
walked three times around Snow White,
the sleeping virgin.  They were wise
and wattled like small czars.
Yes.  It's a good omen,
they said, and will bring us luck.
They stood on tiptoes to watch
Snow White wake up.  She told them
about the mirror and the killer-queen
and they asked her to stay and keep house.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
Soon she will know you are here.
While we are away in the mines
during the day, you must not
open the door.

Looking glass upon the wall . . .
The mirror told
and so the queen dressed herself in rags
and went out like a peddler to trap Snow White.
She went across seven mountains.
She came to the dwarf house
and Snow White opened the door
and bought a bit of lacing.
The queen fastened it tightly
around her bodice,
as tight as an Ace bandage,
so tight that Snow White swooned.
She lay on the floor, a plucked daisy.
When the dwarfs came home they undid the lace
and she revived miraculously.
She was as full of life as soda pop.
Beware of your stepmother,
they said.
She will try once more.

Looking glass upon the wall. . .
Once more the mirror told
and once more the queen dressed in rags
and once more Snow White opened the door.
This time she bought a poison comb, 
a curved eight-inch scorpion,
and put it in her hair and swooned again.
The dwarfs returned and took out the comb
and she revived miraculously.
She opened her eyes as wide as Orphan Annie.
Beware, beware, they said,
but the mirror told,
the queen came,
Snow White, the dumb bunny,
opened the door
and she bit into a poison apple
and fell down for the final time.
When the dwarfs returned
they undid her bodice,
they looked for a comb,
but it did no good.
Though they washed her with wine
and rubbed her with butter
it was to no avail.
She lay as still as a gold piece.The seven dwarfs could not bring themselves
to bury her in the black ground
so they made a glass coffin
and set it upon the seventh mountain
so that all who passed by
could peek in upon her beauty.
A prince came one June day
and would not budge.
He stayed so long his hair turned green
and still he would not leave.
The dwarfs took pity upon him
and gave him the glass Snow White--
its doll's eyes shut forever--
to keep in his far-off castle.
As the prince's men carried the coffin
they stumbled and dropped it
and the chunk of apple flew out
of her throat and she woke up miraculously.And thus Snow White became the prince's bride.
The wicked queen was invited to the wedding feast
and when she arrived there were
red-hot iron shoes,
in the manner of red-hot roller skates,
clamped upon her feet.
First your toes will smoke
and then your heels will turn black
and you will fry upward like a frog,
she was told.
And so she danced until she was dead,
a subterranean figure,
her tongue flicking in and out
like a gas jet.
Meanwhile Snow White held court,
rolling her china-blue doll eyes open and shut
and sometimes referring to her mirror
as women do.

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

Poetry for Christmas

Before I could read I owned a picture book which looked like a Little Golden Book, but might have been published by a different company.  It was an illustrated version of the lullaby, “All the Pretty Little Horses.”  I begged my mother to read me that book every night, wanting to re-imagine all the different colors of horses.

A couple of years later, my mother gave me my first volume of poetry for Christmas, called Sung Under the Silver Umbrella.  I treasured that book, even through the middle-school years when my friends made fun of poetry.  I still have the book.  For years I felt as if the book were my own little secret–that it had a readership of one, and that I was alone in the world with the poems.IMG_5338

Imagine my surprise to learn that one of Sylvia Plath’s favorite childhood books was the same one I loved This book was first published for children in 1935, when Plath was three years old.  When I got it, the book had been out for a full generation.

The poetry in this book isn’t very edgy by today’s standards.  There isn’t even any Shel Silverstein in it.  But it’s still a great foundation for building a poetic life.  Here’s a sample from the book:

***

GENERAL STORE

Some day I’m going to have a store

With a tinkly bell hung over the door,

With real glass cases and counters wide

And drawers all spilly with things inside.

There’ll be a little of everything;

Bolts of calico; balls of string;

Jars of peppermint; tins of tea;

Pots and kettles and crockery;

Seeds in packets; scissors bright;

Kegs of sugar, brown and white;

Sarsaparilla for picnic lunches,

Bananas and rubber boots in bunches.

I’ll fix the window and dust each shelf,

And take the money in all myself,

It will be my store and I will say:

“What can I do for you to-day?”

Rachel FieldIMG_5341

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Filed under Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Poetry