shake it up

My grandpa Orville was a genuine, kind-hearted Swede who spent the bulk of his days on a tractor in Lafayette, MN – a small farming community in the south central part of the state. My brother and I would often travel via Greyhound bus from big city Saint Paul to spend stretches of our childhood summers with our maternal grandparents – Orville and Myrtle Swenson. The bus deposited us at Lyle’s Cafe in Winthrop (the next town north) where grandpa would be waiting to fetch in his Mercury. Then, luggage stowed in the trunk, Mister-Misty from the Dairy Queen in hand, off we’d go, barreling down Highway 15 – much like falling through the rabbit hole into another world. I couldn’t soak up rural, small-town life fast enough.

Upon arrival in Lafayette, the very first thing grandma would do is give my brother and me enough money so we could each go buy our very own box of sugar cereal for the coming days ahead. I still don’t know if my mom was privy to this arrangement, but I do know she wouldn’t have approved of it. We never got sugar cereal at home. Instead we got things like homemade granola, shredded wheat, and maybe if we were lucky, plain cheeriros.

Giddy with anticipation, my brother and I would trek the three blocks to Malmberg’s Store and spend an inordinate amount of time perusing the cereal aisle. Even though I knew what I wanted before I set foot across the threshold, I still felt compelled to check out all of my options. Then, armed with my very own box of Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch that I wasn’t even required to share with my big brother, I’d go up to the counter to make my purchase. Inevitably, the clerk would eye me up and say “You must be Mary’s girl.” How could she possibly know this, I’d think? How does she even know who my mom is? But I’d smile and nod yes in amazement.

Thinking back on these visits, what I remember most (cereal aside) is the food. In particular, I was strangely fascinated with watching my grandpa eat. Three times a day, like clock-work, he’d sit down at the head of their big rectangle, vinyl clad, table and wholeheartedly indulge in whatever was put before him. It was so foreign to me. This man wasn’t just eating, he was literally fueling up for the physical demands that lay ahead of him.

From my pre-teen perspective, my grandpa was a man of simple culinary pleasures. But reflecting on this as an adult, I’d say his indulgences were well chosen. Funny that I seem to have adopted most of them (save his annual lutefisk and blood sausage feast). I’ve already shared our mutual fondness of popcorn. And it’s my grandpa I credit for my love of a plain piece of bread slathered in butter and honey. The key word here is the slathered. His table knives, several of which now reside in my silverware bin, have wide, flat blades made for spreading – not cutting. The more butter the better was his motto. Knowing this now only makes me wish I knew him better.

And then, there was the ice cream and the malts. Ice cream (at least when I was visiting) was a nightly staple for Orville – which you’d never guess, given his slim build. Now ice cream was as rare of a treat in our house as was sugar cereal. But my father always told me “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” And so I dutifully ate ice cream with my grandpa. Plain vanilla with Hershey’s chocolate syrup is what I remember best. Sometimes in a bowl, sometime shaken up with a spoonful of malt powder in his tin malt cup.

I had nearly forgotten about this fine, non-motorized invention until one night several years ago on a visit to my mom’s. We were standing talking in the kitchen when she unexpectedly reached up to one of the top shelves and handed over her dad’s Carnation Malted Milk shaker for me to have. “Really?” I asked, stuffing it in my bag before she had time to reconsider.

I think Orville would be pleased as all get out to know that his beat up old malt cup is now one of my prized possessions. I have spent many a night combining flavors in search of the perfect malt. And though I’ve tried some wild things, I have to admit that plain old vanilla ice cream, a splash of milk, some Hershey’s, and a spoonful malt powder is hard to beat. But then the other night, I shook up a very simple malt that I have been craving ever since. I happened to have some homemade honey-cardamom ice cream on hand (recipe below), but I think you could make these just as well with vanilla ice cream, an extra spoonful of honey, and dash of some warming spice. Nutmeg, cardamom, mace, or cinnamon all sound fabulous. Just a subtle hint of one of those flavors combined with the honey and vanilla would be spot on. I also can’t wait to try this later in the summer with a handful of fresh blueberries tossed in.

Honey Malteds

3 small scoops slightly melty vanilla ice cream
3/4 cup milk
2 rounded tablespoons malt powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons honey (I used 1 T with the honey ice cream)
small dash of nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom or mace

Shake up in a malt cup, or pulse lightly in a blender. Pour into chilled glass, adorn with a cheerful straw and enjoy. Makes one 10 oz malted.

Honey-Cardamom Ice Cream
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

I’ve also made this plain with no spice and love it. Adding a pinch of nutmeg instead of the cardamom is another favorite combo. It’s a wonderful light tasting ice cream.

1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 – 1/2 cup mild flavored honey
Rounded 1/8 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon cardamom (to taste)

In a small saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat until it begins to simmer gently around the edges. Pour it into a medium bowl, and allow to cool completely. Add the honey and salt, and stir well to dissolve the honey. Stir in the cream and cardamom. Taste, and adjust the amount of honey and spice as needed. Cover and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.

Freeze according to the instructions for your ice cream maker. Freeze the ice cream in the freezer until hard enough to scoop, at least 3 to 4 hours.

4 Responses to “shake it up”

  1. 1 Julie March 14, 2011 at 9:57 am

    What a perfect, leisurely way to start my day. What lovely memories — the cereal aisle and the malts, a testament to the fine art of grandparent-hood. I never would have taken you for a PB Capt’n Crunch gal.

  2. 2 Marlys Juhnke March 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    What a wonderful ‘trip’ back! One of my memories of Uncle Orville is marveling at the BIG soup bowl full of ice cream that he ate at night. I also remember sitting on the lawn with Myrtle and my mom Mabel, shelling a tub full of peas…for Myrtle to can. We were at their place quite a lot (in the 40’s)…including Christmas Eve complete with that shimmering, shivering platter of lutfisk. I can almost smell/taste it now!
    Thank you for your writing…I really enjoy it.

  3. 3 Mom March 15, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    Oh what memories this brings back. I’m not sure I knew everything that went on during your visits, but remember how they loved to spoil you at every turn – that’s what grandparents are for and now I get to do the same thing when Sylvie & Eve come to stay with me – cookies, ice cream, chocolate milk – sure, why not! Now I have to burst your bubble a bit – I was spoiled before you were! Grandpa’s love of ice cream started long ago. As far back as I can remember, every time we made a trip we made into town – usually once a week to sell the eggs – we would stop at the local cafe and get an ice cream cone. Then, when home freezers came along he got the biggest one available – must have been 6 ft long and took up one wall of the basement. Always filled with our own corn, peas, meat….and NEVER less than 2 or 3 of the big 2 1/2 gallon containers of different flavored ice cream. This started when the Schwan’s truck began making home deliveries. I’m sure it changed his life – and he enjoyed a BIG bowl every night before bed. Our bowls were smaller than his, but we were never denied the plesure. This also meant lots of ice cream on hand for malts. Malts were reserved for Sunday after we got home from church – probably why we never argued about having to go to church! He would fry up the best hamburgers and make chocolate malts – made with the same old tin shaker. So happy you treasure it – thanks for the memories! Love you….and sorry we never had a freezer filled with 2 1/2 gallon containers of ice cream for you.

  4. 4 Amanda March 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Hi there – I just found you via the 101 Cookbooks library.
    What a lovely reminiscence of your time with your grandparents.
    And what a seriously good recipe for ice cream – I can’t wait to give it a try.

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