When I think of ice cream, I think of two things: the first, my Grandpapa, Earle Decker, who had quite a positive relationship with ice cream. The second, summer – simply because it’s generally hot out and everyone loves a cool treat on a hot day.
Grandpapa wasn’t what you’d call a connoisseur of ice cream. He didn’t really distinguish between Québon brand and anything else. He loved it all. I am not sure if I inherited my love of ice cream from him, or if I just love ice cream. And does it really matter? What’s important is that when I think of ice cream, I think of him. And when I think of him, I think of ice cream.
When he died in 1989 I was devastated. We were very close, even though he lived in Montreal and I lived in Newfoundland. We traveled to visit our Montreal family several times a year, and my grandparents came to Newfoundland often. We had a great relationship that started early in life. Apparently when I was only three, my Grandpapa spent some time with me one on one explaining how to pack a pipe with tobacco. This was important information indeed. He also shared other skills with me – he had a fondness for making boxes out of other boxes. He was the original recycler before any of that was cool. He’d take his Exacto blade, slice rectangles of cardboard out of large boxes, and tape them together into smaller boxes. He used these boxes for many, many things. Most held pens. He had hundreds and hundreds of pens. Others held pads of paper that he had also constructed. He’d take pieces of paper, stack them together, punch holes in the tops and use binder rings to hold them together. He showed me how to do this.
He had a tiny front office in my grandparents’ apartment on Pauline Street in LaSalle. The shelves held the many constructed boxes, the pens, the pads of paper, and his never-finished ‘paper’ that he was always working on. Taped to the shelf right in his line of vision were two torn out pieces of paper. One was an amazing quote from The Rubiyat by Omar Khayyám, which I still recall to this day, “The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, Nor all Thy Tears wash out a Word of it”. The other read simply, “tempus fugit”, Latin for ‘time flies’. I often thought to myself, as I got a bit older, if only he’d stop making boxes he’d finish his paper (time flies, after all).
He was an English teacher and I remember showing him a draft of my very first English paper in first year university, thinking he’d tell me I was an amazing writer. Instead he told me it was a piece of crap and redlined most of the text. It was one of my most painful experiences in life because I loved him so much and the criticism came as a surprise. I cried, of course. But then I went home and rewrote the paper and got an A+.
He showed me how to wash dishes with the little mop in the tiny sink in the Pauline Street kitchen – the smell of green Palmolive transports me instantly back there to this day. He showed me how to make his mother’s baking powder biscuits (recipe can be found here: http://www.richlerrecipes.blogspot.com/2011/09/my-great-grandmother-claras-baking.html), and taught me that skim milk is meant to be drunk with ice cubes in it.
On the first anniversary of his death, I went to his plot on Mount Royal and dumped an entire bucket of ice cream on his grave. I bet you’re wondering what flavor. It was Butterscotch Ripple, or as he liked to call it, “butt rip” (because these were the words you could see on the side of the box in the freezer). I sat there next to him on top of that hill overlooking St. Joseph’s Oratory, as the ice cream melted on a warm Montreal day, thinking about him.
I think of him all the time, but now I am not sad – I remember all of his awesomeness and think fondly back to my granddaughter-hood spent with him. In honour of him, we gave each of our sons one of his names, and both of those sons love ice cream. It must be in our blood after all. In honour of Joseph Earle Decker, here is my latest favourite ice cream recipe.
Peanut Butter Ice Cream (recipe adapted from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz)
¾ cup peanut butter (I use Kraft Light Smooth. I considered using natural PB but am unsure as to how a creamy texture might be achieved since the natural PB tends to separate. I will attempt this some day.)
½ cup sugar (the recipe calls for ¾ cup, but I found this to be very sweet)
2 2/3 cups half and half cream (the first time I used half whipping cream and half skim milk – which worked out just fine)
1/8 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
¾ cup mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, or use the large ones and cut them up into pieces (original recipe doesn’t call for these to be added)
Put the peanut butter in a blender, food processor or mixer.
Add the sugar and start mixing.
Then the cream…
…and the rest of the ingredients (except the Reese’s PB Cups)
Mix it all up.
You may have to stop your mixer and ensure the peanut butter is being incorporated –
it tends to stick to the sides of the bowl.
A blender or food processor might work better for you.
Put the mixture back into the fridge for an hour to cool.
Then pour it into the ice cream maker,
add the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,
and follow the directions for your machine.
Once your time is up with the ice cream maker (mine takes 22 minutes),
remove the ice cream from the machine….
…and put it into a freezer-safe container.
Rest assured that it won’t be in there for too long.
The photos of the process included here are for the version to which I added the PB cups. The final photo of the ice cream in the bowl is the version I made without the PB cups.
It’s all good.