Saturday, August 8, 2009

Part 2, The Cook's Tale

This is going way longer than I thought, so...

Chapter One

Even before the black and white pedal car I remember being covered in mud as I sat in the yard using the water from the dog’s bowl to make mud pies…which I then tried to eat. I was probably three.

Food was always an important part of family life when I was small. I remember the large family dinners at my maternal grandparents’ house, the adults in the dining room, us cousins crammed around a little table in the kitchen. I don’t remember the food so much, except the ice cream. During the summer, while the women were in the kitchen and setting the tables, the men and us kids would be tasked with making a batch of vanilla ice cream. My dad and uncles would take turns cranking the handle, and we would take turns freezing our asses by sitting on top of the old machine so it wouldn’t move around too much. That was the best ice cream in the world; soft, sweet, rich with eggs, and so cold in would make your eyes hurt.

Grandma Dozier’s Ice Cream Recipe

Separate 6 eggs, putting whites in separate glass bowl. Whip until stiff.
In large bowl beat yolks until creamy yellow.
Add 2 1/3 cup sugar
1 can evaporated milk
Dash of salt
2 TBS vanilla extract.
Blend in 5 cups milk
Fold in egg whites.
Freeze according to freezer instructions
Makes 4 qts.

That’s right folks, the eggs are not cooked prior to mixing, so if you’re squeamish about raw eggs, or have a weakened immune system, I would make a custard, tempering the eggs. Grandma D would have just credited any sickness or deaths from the eggs to the “Lord’s Will.”

Ok, so let's make a custard...Separate the eggs as instructed, but place the whites in a small bowl, cover and refrigerate. Keep the yolks handy, you’ll need them in a minute.
In your favorite sauce pan, bring the combined milk, evap. milk, sugar, and salt to just below a boil over low heat while constantly stirring. Remove from heat.
Beat the yolks as instructed above. Pour about two cups of the milk mixture into the eggs very slowly, while whisking. Pouring too fast will cause the hot mix to cook the eggs, giving you omelet ice cream.
Add the egg-milk mix to the remaining milk mix in the sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for about one minute and remove from heat.
Add vanilla. Pour custard into a bowl, cover and refrigerate ‘til well chilled, at least four hours.
When ready to mix, whip whites ‘til stiff, fold into custard and then freeze as instructed.

After dinner was eaten and the mess cleaned up, everyone would move into the living room and watch TV for a while, I remember Hee-Haw being a favorite, though I still can’t believe Grandma D let a show with such scantily clad women be watched in her house. One time, I remember a jam session with guitars and even a jug and washboard.
Grandma and Grandpa D lived on what was left of the dairy farm that Grandpa had ran in the forties and fifties, they had sold off most of the land, but the house, which my grandpa had built himself after their first house burnt down, the garage (where they had lived while Grandpa built their new house) and the barn remained.
The whole place was a wonderland for us kids. We would run around the house, through the grape vine covered arbor to the swings under the giant of a weeping willow in the back yard. The garage was full of old tools to guess the uses for, and I always wondered what it must have been like to have lived in there. Grandpa had a huge garden every year and on the side of it was an old, faded red International Harvester tractor that we would play on for hours.

Just down the road were fence lines grown over with blackberries, which we would pick, getting tangled in the thorny vines and staining our lips and fingers purple. Sometimes we just tossed them into the ice cream and sometimes Grandma would make them into jelly.

The place I remember best though was the barn. Old, wooden, and regulation red it was a great spot to play and get into trouble. One weekend, a giant hog appeared in the barn. My cousin and I, in all of our six-year-old wisdom, decided that it would be fun to play bullfight with the hog and took our shirts off and, waving them like capes, took turns dancing in front of the hog like the matadors on TV did.

Yep, bullfights were shown on TV then…probably on Wide World of Sports.

I remember the hog getting pissed and finally taking a pass at us before we got caught and in trouble. No concern about little kids getting trampled by 700 pound hogs, though, just a stern, “Stop pestering the hog.”

Now, I realize that the hog was in the barn to be fattened up for slaughter and that by pestering him we were causing adrenaline to be introduced into his muscles, which makes the meat taste funky.

Some time later, we arrived at my grandparents’ and the hog was hanging by his hind legs from the steel cross post high above the garden gate, his blood filling a large washtub underneath his snout. That’s how I learned where bacon comes from.


Terroni said...

Mmm...homemade ice cream. My grandpa used to make this every summer. My dad is a grandpa now. Maybe I'll suggest that it's his turn to take over.

Terroni said...

I didn't know adrenaline made the meat taste bad.

Did the sight of a stuck pig turn you off of bacon?

Eric said...

I think you should, it's every grandpa's duty to make homemade ice cream. We used to sit there snagging pieces of rock salt to suck on, and to this day, when I make ice cream, I still can't resist popping a piece of rock salt in my mouth.
We also used to lick the cows' salt blocks...I have no problem avoiding those these days though.
The thought on adrenaline is that it's what makes meat taste gamey...but I don't know, it's just what I've been told. It would seem to me that factory meat would taste gamey, since the animals are terrified as they're led into the slaughter room, but it doesn't.
Also, it would seem that the adrenaline would pass fairly quickly out of the system, so it was probably more a matter of my grandpa being the kind of farmer that believed that if you were going to kill an animal to feed your family you had an obligation to treat it well.
And no, I have always loved bacon.

Maria said...

I grew up on a farm and we weren't allowed to "rile up" the hogs either. It always seemed to me that they led lives of leisure, wallowing in their mud and eating slops that we brought them in a big bucket after dinner. My mother would scrape plates into it and then toss whatever she wasn't going to save. We divided up the slops between the dogs (we lived outside and were NEVER invited in the house) and the pigs.

I never liked slaughtering day, though, although I do remember like to eat the "crackle" which was the pig's tale.

Funny, my daughter thinks of these stories as in "the olden days" when Mama was a child....

Terroni said...

Yeah, I don't think it would turn me off, either. Something about bacon...

Eric said...

I know, huh? I was reading "Meat, A Love Story" not too long ago by Susan Bourette; she swore off meat after going undercover in a packing plant and lasted six weeks before caving while in a diner...because of bacon.

Terroni said...

Oh, and I had a fabulous pizza at Matchbox in DC tonight:

fire roasted red peppers / spanish onions / chipotle pepper tomato sauce / garlic puree / smoked gouda / fresh basil

Washed it down with a Delirium Tremens.

It was entirely too spicy for the other people at the table, but I suspect you would have really liked it.

Terroni said...

If you find yourself wandering through my archives again, may I suggest my own meat love story?

Skinny bitch goes hog wild
April 25, 2008