Pack Creek Ranch, San Juan County, Utah, U.S.A.
The second week of June, 2017
Summertime – clear skies, hot days, cool nights, afternoon showers
Venus is the morning star
If I played jazz saxophone, I would call this next tune “Variations on a Theme of Pagoto – some riffs on memories of summertime.”
1. What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you had asked me that question in the summer of my twelfth year, I would have readily answered: The driver of an ice cream truck.
Cruising slowly through suburban neighborhoods with a load of ice cream in the late afternoon of a warm summer’s day.
Announced by jingly-jangly music.
And attracting both kids and adults to indulge in some cold happiness.
A year later, when I got my driver’s license (yes – at 13 – this was Texas back then) I naively applied for the job of ice cream truck driver.
The owner of the dairy howled with laughter, and said he thought I just wanted to have access to all the ice cream I could eat myself.
Well . . . yes . . . why not? . . . surely the driver deserved certain benefits.
He explained about profit and loss, truck maintenance, and how boring the job would get after about a week.
Sorry, but no. Try again when I grow up.
Thus ended my commercial aspirations in the field of Pagoto.
That’s the Greek word for ice cream, by the way – and since I’m still in Cretan mental mode, when I think of ice cream, that’s the word that comes to mind.
Besides I like the sound of it. Say it: Pah-go-toe.
2. Even more specifically, provato pagoto – ice cream made from sheep’s milk.
A uniquely rich milk – not for drinking but mostly for making cheese.
And the smoothest, richest ice cream you ever tasted.
3. My favorite restaurant in Crete, Mylos in the coastal village of Platanias,
takes the concept a step further in early summer.
They make and serve lavender ice cream – pagoto flavored with the oil from lavender flowers and served in a large white petal from a Magnolia blossom.
This is usually dessert, but for me, it’s the first course of the meal.
For dessert, I order triantáfyllo pagoto – rose-flavored ice cream, served in a saucer of karpoozi – watermelon.
4. I appreciate this ice cream all the more when I recall how the Cretans milk a sheep. The shepherd stands up, straddling the sheep between his legs, facing the stern of the sheep – and then bends over and milks the udder from the rear.
A stressful, tiring, frustrating, and nasty task.
The sheep is not enthusiastic about the situation – and the smell of the sheep from its backend is pretty noxious. I know. I tried it. Once.
I appreciate what must be done and endured to provide the milk for my pagoto.
5. The effort of the Cretan shepherd reminds me of the work required in making ice cream when I was growing up. I was the family cranker – turning the handle on a wooden ice cream machine filled with crushed ice and rock salt.
When the churning got stiff, the interior paddles were lifted out just far enough to allow the addition of finely chopped peaches, and the machine was packed with ice, covered with burlap bags and an old quilt, and put in the shade of a tree to meld the peaches and ice cream.
Meanwhile, the summer picnic was laid out – deviled eggs, potato salad, fresh picked sweet corn, toasted poppy seed buns layered with slices of barbecued brisket of beef, and sliced onions. One was careful to not over eat at this point,
knowing what was waiting in the wooden bucket under the tree.
I usually temper my nostalgia for the “good old days” but no summer meal has ever matched a picnic like that – topped off with hand-churned peach ice cream.
6. Now I am finally old enough to become an ice cream truck driver.
Recently I saw an ad offering a used ice cream truck for sale. Aha!
Here’s my plan:
I’ve often said I’d like to own a Mexican low-rider car – the ones modified with major hydraulic and music systems that allow the car to literally jump and jive.
Imagine my rigging an ice-cream truck with low-rider gear.
Imagine my stocking the truck with hand-churned peach ice-cream bars on a stick.
Imagine your looking up the street to see an ice cream truck dancing in your direction, playing Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours.”
The ice cream would be free.
Come and get it!
(see my Facebook page for photo illustrations.)