The whole thing started when my sister-in-law called to say that she needed a special dessert for her Mother's 75th birthday party. "Don't you have a family recipe that would be meaningful as well as delicious."
"No, not really," I said as my mind went blank because my Mother and my Grandmothers weren't great cooks. Then I remembered the Ice Cream for Special Occasions, as Gran used to call it. It had been handed down to her from her mother and we all loved it.
As I began to think about family recipes, I realized that I actually had a story to go with the recipe. Then I remembered the box of old photos. I had a recipe and a story and a photo of my great grandmother.
Over the next few days I began to count up the family recipes – it seemed we had a whole book full of memories because each recipe had a person and their story attached to it.
Here is the recipe that started it all. You can savor a big bowl of it while you are searching out your own family's memories.
BROWN BREAD ICE CREAM
1 1/4 cups of bread crumbs,
1 tbsp of very good vanilla,
1/2 cup of whipping cream,
4 egg yolks,
1/8 cup of brandy,
2 tbsp of sugar,
1 1/2 cups of whole milk.
Beat together the egg yolks and sugar and cook gently in a double boiler, stirring all the time until it thickens slightly.
Then add the brandy. Let it cool.
Whip the cream and fold it into the cooled mixture. Chill.
Crisp the bread crumbs, sprinkled with sugar, in the oven for 15 minutes. Mix together with the custard and put into an ice cream maker or freeze in the freezer, taking out every 1/2 hour to stir to break up the cristals until totally frozen.
Put the mixture into a pretty dish and serve.
This is an Victorian recipe that my grandmother used to make. She was originally from Cape Town, South Africa where her father was the owner of a bookstore. She was the oldest of six children who went to England every summer and played cards all the way up and back on the ship. When she was 15 her father died.
Her mother emigrated to Canada with the children where they settled in Vancouver. In her early 20's my grandmother eloped to marry a tall handsome Irishman who joined the Western Irish and who was later was wounded at Vimy (WW1). Not believing that anyone could take proper care of her husband she got herself across Canada and on to a troop ship (which was practically unheard of) and arrived in England where he was in hospital. She brought him home where he died of his wound two years later.
This tiny determined woman brought up her son (my dad) trying to keep him "in line" all the while adoring him and watching him proudly move ahead in life. When he went to Toronto and married she reluctantly "came East" to be with her grandchildren, leaving behind the mountains of Vancouver for
the flat landscape of Ontario.
When I was in grade school she and I had lunch together twice a week and as I remember those lunches – she loved to play cards and didn't much like to cook, but she did have a few special recipes: curry from The Cape, Jell-o in contrasting colors and this ice cream recipe.