When I was very young, making ice cream was a very involved process. The cow had to be milked and the eggs gathered before the custard could be made. If we wanted strawberries we had to pick them. For ice, we piled into the back of the pickup and headed four miles away to the Blacksburg Ice Company. On the loading dock, big men split steaming two-foot-thick slabs of ice into blocks and tossed them into deafening grinders. The frozen pellets shot into our galvanized tubs, and we carried away our already disappearing treasure.
Back home, all of us children wanted to churn at first. Usually cousins had come over for the treat, and we pushed and shoved to get a turn. Once the churning got serious, the prize was the seat on top of the churn; it took the weight of a child to hold the freezer steady while adult strength kept the dasher moving.
I think such memories are precious, not because of a sweet tooth, but because they are memories of an entire family, both sexes, all ages, working happily together toward one end—from the children picking fruit to the women making custard to the men wrestling with the churn. It’s a sweet thought even without the ice cream.
Today, I have an Italian-made machine with a self-contained electric compressor. There are no trips to the ice plant, but I still use my mother’s recipe for custard ice cream.