Updated: May 22, 2013 6:20AM
When I was a farm kid in the days of FDR, I often heard someone described as a crank or cranky, meaning out of sorts, irritable, peevish, in a state of fretful fussiness. But I did not pay much attention because I was too busy reading books by Horatio Alger, like “Herbert Carter’s Legacy” and similar stirring literature.
Now, as I approach adulthood, I understand, because I know a few cranky people. I am eternally grateful that I am never a crank. Well…
But the word often comes to me in a deliciously positive way when I admire stuff in the ice cream section at the store. A serving of reverential memories of the way we made ice cream back in our rural enclave.
We didn’t buy it. We created it — well, we kids did help some, turning the crank of our ice cream freezers until near the end of the miracle when the milk and other magical ingredients became nearly solid. You know, freezing. I don’t remember what the women put into the creation that became ice cream — it didn’t matter. Some Jersey cow milk, I know.
Ice came in big chunks that we chipped into pieces small enough to fit into the freezer. Then we cranked and hoped and salivated, knowing what a thrill was ahead.
In the summer, our clan often gathered for what became an ice cream soiree, although we did not use words like that. It was for us a significant event that brought us together for fun, visiting and an appreciation of what we saw as a good life there in our lower income but friendship wealthy little world.
Some folks still use hand- crank freezers, but I suspect that the new freezers that do the work, and the availability of really good stuff in stores, are making the practice seem, well, a nuisance. Maybe I am wrong.
There was one glorious step in the crank-freezer experience that delighted us kids — adults too, but it was mostly a kid thing. It was called licking the paddle, a practice that required practice and perseverance, a delight. Some of us became really good, but we were always willing to practice.
I don’t remember if Norman Rockwell ever painted a paddle-licking scene for the Saturday Evening Post, but it was perfect material for a cover page piece of art.
In our little country church, an ice cream social was a high fellowship event. A tasty piece of our simple, but earnest culture. It is no wonder that for some older folks, of which I am one, the simple pleasurable uplift came not only in the ice cream but in the fellowship linked to it. We who remain will not forget.
A simple event, like sharing hand-cranked ice cream, was a societal blessing in our culture, bringing us together. Like the hymn that we all knew, about the tie that binds.
Our modern world moves so fast that we don’t have time to hand-crank anything, and it is not necessary. There is an abundance of wonderful ice cream already packaged for us, like so many things that make our lives easier.
It is in the remembering that we find our links to our early worlds, not only in the hand-cranking events that gave us pleasure, but in other little cultural practices that blessed and formed us.
I am basically a modest fellow when I talk about big things that I have done, so I will not say more than once that I was one of the most skillful paddle-lickers in the whole ice cream soiree series back home.
I become fretfully fussy when I am challenged on that one.