(June 26, 2018) Hear the audio version
What does summer taste like? I thought I’d have to dig deep for my answer, because many of the foods I remember from my 1950’s and 60’s childhood summers came out of a can or a freezer pouch—peaches, green beans, even corn. To be honest, those flavors kinda blended together. So did the taste of cherries when they swam with other bits of so-called fruit in a syrupy sauce poured out of a can and called fruit cocktail. My midcentury space-age suburban family did not eat seasonally or locally.
But we did have a station wagon. And one of my dad’s favorite things to do after dinner on summer evenings was drive my brothers and me to the new Southern California drug store, Sav-on, for ice cream cones: 5 cents for one scoop, 10 for two. I had a feeling Mom didn’t approve of Dad eating ice cream, but when he was out with us, he indulged in his favorite flavor, chocolate chip. I always ordered strawberry—two scoops of creamy strawberry ice cream melting over a sugar cone.
I’d forgotten about that glorious taste of summer until a couple of weeks ago, when I tested a recipe for something called strawberry milk: cut farmers market strawberries up into a blender and sprinkle with sugar. Stir them a few times over the next hour until nice and goopy, then puree until smooth. Add good, whole milk and … buttermilk. Stir. Let the mixture steep in the fridge overnight, and oh my goodness! The result is summer in a glass. It’s two scoops of circa 1965 Sav-on strawberry ice cream eaten on a warm summer evening in the rear-facing seat of the station wagon, minus the cone. (I’ve gone gluten-free.) It’s undoubtedly healthier than its 1960’s version: it has buttermilk. I make it for myself, I make it for my family, I will make it for anyone who comes through my kitchen for as long as strawberry season lasts. Strawberry milk takes me back while also providing comfort. And I and most people I know can use a few sips of solace this summer.
With a Perspective, I’m Debbie Duncan.