Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer memories

I must say it is very hot, humid and sticky here in my little corner of the world. I have to whine just a bit that I gave up a beautiful swimming pool in our home in the Dallas area last year to move so that we could all be together as a family. Hubby had been commuting for over a year and we just missed him too much. Thus, I traded away that pool for a gorgeous new house in Houston with a fabulous kitchen (remember, I have a gas cooktop now--hooray!). So now we have a pretty empty back yard but I can cook to my heart's desire. It's only during these awful summer months that the trade-off truly makes me sad, and it has invoked much reminiscing of late about summer days as a child.

That Panhandle town where I grew up is small. Some people say it's not the end of the world but you can see it from there! Basically it was just a simple community of primarily agricultural folks, with a grand total population of just under 7,000 when we moved there in January of 1977. I was 10 years old and ready to take on the world. After spending about the first 2 years living in the country, we moved into town where my younger siblings and I were excited to be able to make regular visits to the municipal swimming pool. That place was huge! (OK, so it really wasn't, but isn't it amazing how we remember things as so much bigger in our memories of childhood and we see them as adults and cannot figure out how they shrunk?) As soon as lunch was over and mom had the little ones down for naps, we would hop on our bikes and ride over for long summer af
ternoons of fun in the sun with our friends. Sometimes, it was up to us older girls to babysit the young ones, so on those days we would walk and drag them along. Next to nothing could stand in our way of cooling off and perfecting our dives and high board jumps in the process! We had it made!

So if you've done the math, I was around age 12 when we moved to town, which means boys were starting to look pretty darn interesting to this young girl. It was highly convenient that the pool was managed each summer by one of the local school teachers and his son served as one of the primary life guards. It was also convenient that said son was also o
ne of my big brother's best friends, making him a much "older man" and thus very appealing for having 2 years age on me. This caused a full-out summer crush for several years, and served as the impetus for learning how to create one of my most favorite summer treats. One particularly flirtatious Sunday afternoon, said lifeguard happened to mention to me that his favorite flavor of ice cream was strawberry. The "way to a man's heart" notion took fierce hold of my psyche, as I profoundly confessed that I could make the best homemade strawberry ice cream in the world! Now, I had actually never made it before, but my secret weapon was my best friend's mom and having successfully recently wrangled her spectacular recipe, which I had enjoyed devouring with my friend not much prior!
Of course I had to deliver on my boasting! This gave me exactly a day and half to get it right and place my crowning glory at the feet of the object of my affection, as the pool was routinely closed on Monday for cleaning. I remember rushing home and pulling my mom into the fray where we mixed up a test batch for the family on Monday. Pronouncing it spectacular, my dad's seal of approval was all I needed, and the second batch was lovingly delivered to that sweet boy during evening pool hours on Tuesday night. I'm sorry to say that he didn't immediately come to his senses and ditch the older girl he was "going with" for me. (Although he confessed several years later that little sisters of friends have an unspoken "hands-off code" assigned to them, yet he was highly tempted to break that code that summer! And then, of course, it all made sense.) No matter, as many of us will admit, flirtation is the game and the chase is the excitement. Once the catch is secured, we often experience a lingering let-down of exhilaration, meaning those summers hold lots of great memories for me!

Sensational Strawberry Ice Cream

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups whole milk
3 cups whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I usually double this measurement!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 quart frozen strawberries (chopped with syrup, commercial packaged work fine)

Mix together first 6 ingredients with electric mixer in large glass mixing bowl. Add strawberries and stir until well combined. Freeze mixture following directions for your ice cream freezer.
(Note, if you are sensitive about eating raw eggs, this recipe is not for you as you have now determined those eggs are not cooked. My suggestion is to choose your eggs carefully, and enjoy with caution which I have been doing for many years!)