Summer's Best Treat

Natasha Milne

Nothing tastes more like summer to me than a spoonful of fresh peach ice cream. During my first summer away from home at a rustic sleepaway camp in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, there were only two things I wanted: a date with the blond boy in the cabin beside mine and a chance to use our camp's ice cream maker, which was as outmoded as the century-old barn in which the younger campers were housed. Because of the fragile nature of the wooden apparatus, only seven campers at a time were allowed to help churn out a batch of the creamy delicacy, and the weeks I waited for my turn seemed endless, perhaps more so than the time I spent waiting for that boy next door to notice me.

When my turn finally arrived, my unbridled enthusiasm developed into something like reverence as I wrapped my hand around the machine's heavy crank, my nine-year-old muscles working to grind the mixture of pureed peaches, milk, and eggs into an icy treat.

My fellow campers must have felt the same: as we took turns churning the ingredients into our favorite confection, the room was nearly silent, seven pairs of eyes focusing on the marvel under way before us.

It took us hours, using our antiquated machine, to make enough ice cream to feed the entire camp. That night, as we dug into our bowls of pale orange sweetness, each fresh, fruity, delectable bite was a testament to the power of what our efforts could produce.

Years later, I've forgotten the name of my nine-year-old crush, but I savor the memory of that early accomplishment every time I taste homemade ice cream. The technology is far better now than it was at camp, where I suspect that the ice cream maker we used wasn't much evolved from the original hand-powered model invented in 1846 by a New Jersey woman named Nancy Johnson. Today, it takes me only about 30 minutes, and no muscle strain whatsoever, to make ice cream using an electric machine. Yet the creamy treat, be it peach, peppermint, or any other flavor, remains my favorite way to cool off on a summer day. —Nicole Weinberg