Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Scream, You Scream...

For most of my life, I never knew it was possible to make ice cream. The prevailing philosophy in my mother's kitchen is, "why bother making it when you can just buy it?"  As a consequence, a gallon of Schwan's mint chocolate chip was far and away the most exotic thing in our deep freeze. Of course, I was a big fan of that ice cream and would eagerly await the one day of each week when the Schwan's truck would stop at our door.  More often than not, my mom didn't want to buy anything and made us hide from the Schwan's man ("Ssshh! Pretend we're not home!"), but occasionally we would get lucky and end up with a stash of frozen treats. Choco tacos, ice cream sandwiches, drumsticks... these were my formative experiences with ice cream.

When eventually I learned that homemade ice cream was not only possible but relatively easy to make, I was determined to try it for myself.  My only obstacle was a big one: no ice cream maker. I couldn't quite justify buying an appliance devoted to a single dessert, so I searched cookbooks and blogs for a recipe that would allow me to make ice cream some other way.  Though I looked high and low, all I could find were recipes for frozen granitas and sorbets. That's fine in a pinch, but sometimes a girl just needs some thick, old-fashioned, dairy-laden ice cream.

Last December, my mom asked what I wanted for Christmas. "We're moving," she warned me, "and I don't have much time to shop."  In a moment of inspiration, I sent her a link to my ideal ice cream maker (on sale! free shipping!) on Amazon. It was perfect, I thought - she wouldn't have to bother finding it in a store, and with free shipping, it would be a snap to procure. My plan seemed foolproof! Homemade ice cream was nearly within my reach.

When Christmas morning rolled around, I leapt out of bed like an eager child hoping for a glimpse of Santa Claus.  I looked under the tree for the heavy box that would make all my ice cream fantasies come true. But... there was nothing.  OK, OK, there were plenty of gifts. But was there a stainless steel Cuisinhart ice cream maker with a double-insulated freezer bowl? No, I'm sorry to say there was not. (Insert sad violin music.) With the new house under construction, mom had forgotten all about the e-mail I'd sent. There were plenty of other presents to open, but not one of them was an ice cream maker.

Undeterred by my Christmas setback, I spent the next few months researching ice cream makers and watching for sales. Though I wanted one desperately (and regularly salivated over Cuisinharts in kitchen stores), I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money.

Meanwhile, my parents had finally moved into their new home.  30 years of collected possessions had been loaded from the old basement into the new basement, and we'd all gathered to celebrate Memorial Day in the new house. Early one morning, I decided to venture down to the basement in search of a bocce set. I was faced with rows and rows of boxes stacked on endless shelves. I rifled through cardboard boxes, plastic storage tubs, and duffel bags, but the bocce balls I'd been looking for were nowhere to be found.  Just as I turned to walk back upstairs, a large box on the very top shelf caught my eye.  I stopped in my tracks as I read the words on the side of the box: "Ice Cream and Yogurt Freezer."
Above: buried treasure from the basement.

Carefully, I pulled the box down to the ground to get a closer look.  The box had been opened, but all the parts were still wrapped in plastic. At first I wondered if this was mom's attempt to get a jump on next year's Christmas, but it soon became obvious this was not the case. The top flap bore a mailing label from the manufacturer addressed to my dad -  at a very outdated address. The box must have been shipped sometime in the 1980s. Without a doubt, the ice cream maker I'd found was at least twenty-five years old... and still in its original plastic!

I carried my find upstairs. "Oh, that old thing." Mom waved a dismissive hand. "Take it. I'm sure your dad ordered it and I never used it."  It was true - throughout my childhood, dad took endless phone surveys for doctors and was frequently rewarded with household appliances which my mother did not particularly want. This ice cream maker, never even out of the box, had spent its entire life buried in our basement.

Though grateful for my good fortune, there was one question I just had to ask. "When I asked you for an ice cream maker last Christmas, it never occurred to you that you could just walk into your basement and wrap up this one... for FREE?"  Truly, it would have been the easiest, cheapest gift - if she had only remembered she had it in the first place!

I brought my new prize home and, for the first time in its 25-year life, took it out of the plastic.  I can only imagine it must have been a high-quality machine back in the 80s, because amazingly enough, all those years of sitting in the basement hadn't affected it at all. I was pleased (and a little shocked) to find that it worked perfectly!

Above: my "new-to-me" appliance makes a triumphant debut

All right, so it's not a stainless steel Cuisinhart ice cream maker with a double-insulated freezer bowl. But it was absolutely free - and at long last, I have delicious homemade ice cream in my freezer!


  1. How was the ice cream? What kind did you make?

    Mom and Dad don't have a bocce ball set. Or, was that artistic license in the sake of making for a better blog posting? Didn't want to admit that you were going through boxes and boxes of things that we had to pack up for you during the move?

  2. Were we deficient as parents? The ice cream was really good, however.

  3. I really was looking for a bocce set. I could have sworn they had one. No matter; what I found was much better.

    Of course you weren't deficient parents. Your succcess at saving unneeded items in your basement (read: pack rat) resulted in a free ice cream maker for me! :)

  4. Oh! And I made banana spice ice cream. Post to follow soon.

  5. I hated to hurt the Scwann's man's feeling!!
    The ice cream was creamy and delicious! You can rest assured next Christmas I will scan the shelves for gifts!!