• “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple. Dr. Suess

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Thanksgiving always makes me think of my father-in-law.
Wallace Will Ames was born on 24 November 1921.
His birthday often occurred on the same day as Thanksgiving.

I asked my husband to share some memories of his father,
his family and feasting. He kindly obliged.

I post his e-mail reply for your perusal:

"Happy birthday Dad,  I don’t want to forget to say that once I get rambling - Happy Thanksgiving  reader.

"As long as I can remember venison was served at my parent’s dinner table.  My father says that my mother taught him how to hunt when they were first married and money was scarce.  Scarcity being the nature of money the whole family learned how to hunt so there was never any need to buy meat.

"Since this story is about food there will be no need to tell about making our own bullets to save money.  There will also be no need to tell why each one of us used only four to seven bullets a year.  It took three bullets to sight our guns.  If the sights were off it took three more.  Then it took one to shoot the deer.  If it took more than one bullet we stopped to see what was wrong with our gun.  One time Wally had to shoot twice.  He was really upset until he found out he shot two deer.  They were twins.  After he shot them he was really upset because he only had one license.  It all turned out fine in the end because Dad just used his license.  D.D. earned the name of Deer-slayer in school when she showed up to class 10 minutes late after a successful early morning hunt.

"All this is to say that in our house we ate venison.

"One day my mother served beef steak.  Every one of us complained and asked what was wrong with the meat. She said she had prepared it special and that if we didn’t like it she certainly wasn’t going to buy it for us again.  In Canada we ate moose.  One moose would fill the freezer and last the whole year.  Sometimes mom would buy beef in Canada for a treat.  We didn’t mind.  Moose is more like beef then deer and we got used to it.

"There were foods which were served only once a year.  Some of these were turkey, cranberry sauce, yams baked with brown sugar and marshmallows, and Hawaiian punch.  Of course that was Thanksgiving.  (In those days Hawaiian Punch came in a concentrate which mixed up to make a gallon.)  I always drank a full glass of water before I drank my Hawaiian punch so that I could drink it slowly and enjoy it.  Sometimes we got to eat birthday cake on Thanksgiving because it was Dad’s birthday.  Mom made the food for thanksgiving.  She made most of the food we ate most of the time.  She was good at that.  One time she asked me how I wanted my eggs.  I told her I wanted five on the outside scrambled and one on the inside with a runny yolk.  She did it.  It was a master piece.  That wasn’t Thanksgiving, but I was thankful.  I think I may have even been spoiled.  Mom always said I would learn to cook on my mission.   I had maids on my mission so I had to wait until I got married to learn to cook.

"Although Mom made most of the food Dad usually made the ice-cream.   (But not at Thanksgiving.  Ice-cream has to be made when it is hot outside.  It is not an indoor food.) I’m sure mom mixed the ingredients but Dad mixed the rock salt and ice and knew just when the ice-cream had been churned long enough.  (That was usually after each of us children had gotten to turn it.)  While one turned another would sit on top of the ice-cream maker so the lid would not come off.  This process was highly specialized. First the littlest person would turn the ice cream. When it was too hard for her (Sharon was the littlest) she would sit on the mixer.  When Richard got tired he sat on the mixer and I turned. Then Wally turned and I sat.  When Wally finished Dad would check to see if it was done.  When it was finished Dad would take the canister out very carefully so that no salt water would get inside, then he would serve everyone.  Someone was always lucky and got to eat the ice-cream off the paddle.  That was the best.

"Churning ice-cream is based on complex scientific principles involving ice (ice came in blocks in gunnysacks and was broken up with the back or side of an ax so that the work of making ice-cream was almost as fun as eating it) rock salt, and a stainless steal canister filled with secret ingredients.  Inside the canister there are mixing paddles.  Outside there are gears which allow the paddles to turn on the inside and the canister to turn on the outside.  As the paddles turn heat is generated.  The heat melts the ice. Rock salt added in the ice absorbs the heat and allows the melted ice to retain its coldness.  That means that the water is actually colder than the ice which allows the coldness to penetrate the stainless steel and go into the secret ingredients where it belongs. As the ice melts more ice is added to the top forcing the water out and more rock salt is added so that it does not become diluted.  The ice-cream maker has an outside hole lower than the lid to the canister so the waste water can spill out without getting into the ice-cream – that is very important.  The complex part of the science is that the person sitting on top of the ice-cream maker will get wet no matter where the hole is placed (remember the water is colder than ice.)

"When we made ice-cream with friends someone always got ice down the back of their shirt.  Of course this never happened until someone had already gotten wet by making ice-cream.  Once it started everyone got ice down the back of their shirts.  Someone even had the audacity to put ice down the back of my mother’s shirt one time.  I am not sure whether that poor soul managed to escape or not but it seems like Mom took the whole bag of ice to run after him.

"Anyway happy birthday, and thanks Dad."