Kitchn Love Letters

The Small, Countertop Appliance That Made This Past Year Infinitely Better

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Credit: Anna Spaller

On a hot New Orleans summer day in 1990, my mom permitted 6-year-old me to watch television during sunlight hours to escape the heat — a rare opportunity. A commercial for an ice cream maker flashed on the screen. I had to have it and immediately put it on my list for Santa. But, alas, it was not under the tree that year. A few years later, I still wanted an ice cream maker and begged my mother for one.

With the long-held belief that so-called “small” appliances take up valuable space only to go unused, she flatly denied the request. My mom also thought ice cream didn’t need a machine to be made. What followed was a failed attempt to make ice cream the old-school way, taking heavy cream and some Hershey’s syrup, mixing them together in a bowl, placing it in the freezer, and, every so often, pulling it out to stir it. By day’s end we had concocted an inedible cube rather than a delectable ice cream. One day, I thought, I’d be grown and the master of my fate: I would be the proud owner of an ice cream maker.

Adulthood slowly came, shoring up all its responsibilities. With bills to pay and a lack of space in our one-bedroom New York City apartment, the need for an ice cream maker fell by the wayside.

Then, one day in summer 2019, my spouse was offered an anniversary gift from his job. He showed me the list of choices — trinkets, technology, tools, and other mature options. Almost last, there it was: an ice cream maker. Obviously, I voted for that.

Our Cuisinart soft serve ice cream maker arrived and took up more space in our 60-square-foot kitchen than I predicted. As my mother warned, it ended up untouched in the pantry, taking up precious space.

A few months later, we were expecting another child — and then the pandemic came. It hit NYC hard. Having the privilege to work from home, our three-person family quarantined in our tiny apartment. The joyful sounds of people and annoying construction noises all eerily stopped, replaced by the relentlessly haunting sounds of ambulance sirens. Without external markers, the home blurred into office, the day blurred into night, and the weekdays blurred into the weekend. Friday had long been my favorite day of the week, but TGIF was now meaningless. Without friends, outings, or activities, the weekend was just “day 14 of the pandemic,” then day 40, then day … we stopped counting.

In an attempt to mark the passage of time, creating a menu for the week felt like a natural choice. My mother’s family in Italy saved sweets for Sundays, so I knew we had to close the week with something sugary. While many busied themselves baking, pastries have never been my jam. So, then, what I could make?

Credit: Gabi Foley

One meandering day, cleaning my apartment for the umpteenth time, I deep-cleaned my kitchen cupboard. There it was. Unopened. Untouched. Waiting for me.

Sundays now equaled homemade ice cream.

Credit: Gabi Foley

We started with vanilla. Our toddler helped us mix the sugar, milk, cream, and vanilla together, and then we poured it into the ice cream maker’s bowl. We sat and watched it swirl, our excitement building. Then, after 30 minutes, we let him pull the lever down, and his squeal of excitement made us feel like we were at Six Flags. 

Each week, we made a different flavor. And with a spoonful of ice cream, it felt like we were somewhere else. Fresh blackberry ice cream reminded us of a Tuscan gelateria, frozen Greek yogurt was like we were at the New Orleans Greek Fest, and floral rose ice cream was like that of which I had only found in Paris.

The one tricky part about this machine is that the bowl needs to be well-frozen, so it requires at least 24 hours in the freezer before usage. But, hey, the planning gave me something to look forward to. I should also note that the ice cream comes out as soft serve. (But turns into hard ice cream consistency after it’s been in the freezer overnight, if you like it better that way.) It even has a built-in cone and sprinkle dispenser for convenience and cuteness.

Soon, our one-bedroom apartment was functioning as our home, daycare, midtown office, and ice cream parlor for a family of four. As Christmas 2020 approached, we made the decision to drive down to New Orleans to stay with my parents for an indefinite chunk of time. As we loaded strollers, cribs, and suitcases into the rental car, I turned to my spouse. “Two questions: One, can we fit the ice cream maker, and two, is it ridiculous if I bring it?” He answered “yes” and “maybe.” In case you’re wondering, we did bring it. And my mother was glad we did.

Do you have an ice cream maker you love? Tell us about it in the comments!