Summer 2004: As a recent high school grad, I was elated to be spending my first months of freedom at my favorite place in the world — the beach. It wasn’t unusual for me and a group of friends to truck 1-2 hours down the Garden State Parkway and spend a day at the shore. The destinations were always the same: Island Beach State Park, Seaside Heights or Point Pleasant. We knew the pizza joints, the local coffee roasters with their tiny boardwalk storefronts, the surf shops, the piers with the best mini-golf, and where to go for the most amazing saltwater taffy and homemade fudge you’ve ever had in your life. The traffic that always slowed to a crawl right around exit 130 didn’t phase us because we were too busy blasting The Ataris and singing at the top of our lungs to care.
Summer 2010: As a newlywed, I couldn’t have been more excited to introduce hubs to my coast. He hadn’t been to the Jersey shore…ever — which meant I had to aggressively undo all of his MTV-based expectations while preserving my 5+ years of blessed summer tradition. Thankfully, the task was easier than expected and when he came to Long Beach Island with my whole family for the first time, it was amazing.
When we did big family trips, it had become my job to find a rental, book it, organize the key pick-up, and get there first to do a once-over before everyone else arrived. Seeing the place for the first time was always so much fun. The 2010 house is still my favorite because it had 2 WHOLE KITCHENS. [Some say impractical, I say inspired.] Anyway, our days went something like this: wake up whenever you feel like it, eat breakfast, pack drinks and sandwiches in a cooler, walk to the beach, swim, nap, eat (a few cycles of the last 3), walk back to the house, outdoor shower, get dressed, dinner on the grill (or at a restaurant, depending), play games, sleep, repeat. We would do this for 2 weeks and when we were thoroughly beached out, we’d head home. Hubs loved it, and so did I.
Summer 2013: As a native East-Coaster living in Kentucky, the Atlantic is now Lake Cumberland and the beach is now the gorge. We hike instead of tanning, kayak instead of swimming, and camp instead of renting a house. I really love the outdoors here, but I miss the ocean. This is the first year I won’t see it at all before the seasons change, and I’ve definitely been feeling it. It’s not just about going to the beach either. I think it’s about growing up. I went from taking carefree summer trips with my friends to taking big family trips where it was my job to find us a place to stay, to living far from where I grew up in a place that’s so full of adventure and opportunity, yet still unfamiliar. In so many ways, I do feel at home here — but sometimes it hits me that life has changed so much in such a short period of time, and I just want to curl up on a tipped lifeguard chair under the stars and listen to the waves for a while.
As time goes by, I get more used to moments like this where the stuff that used to be my whole life has gotten a little hazy and seems so far off. At first this was scary, and I worried that I needed to vividly remember my childhood like it was yesterday or it would be gone forever — but now I find that no matter how much time goes by, the things that mattered will always stay with me. Whether it’s the smell of a cigar bringing back late night card games on the balcony of our rental, a whiff of coconut reviving an old ritual of lathering up with brown bottles of Hawaiian Tropics after every dip in the ocean, or a song reminding me of long car rides down the Parkway with good friends, laughing so hard and singing so loud that our stomachs and throats were sore when we reached our destination — something will always take me back, no matter how much the summers change.
All this nostalgia doesn’t have much to do with ice cream, but as I started writing out the recipe for this post with a spoonful in hand, I was reminded of the first time I ever tried rum. It was at the beach.
What are your favorite childhood summer memories? Please share in the comments below, I’d love to hear them!
Spiced Rum Banana Ice Cream
Yields about 1 quart
6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup half & half
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 medium/large ripe bananas (with brown on the peel)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 cup spiced rum (I used Kraken Rum)
In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks together and set aside.
Break the bananas into large chunks, process them with the heavy cream (in a blender or food processor) until very smooth and pour the mixture into a medium bowl. Put the medium bowl inside a larger bowl filled halfway with ice and water, place a mesh strainer over the medium bowl and set aside.
Pour half & half into a medium saucepan with the sugar. Heat until very warm (steaming), but not boiling.
Slowly pour some of the heated half & half into the egg yolks, whisking constantly so that the egg blends with the cream without cooking. Scrape this mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the half & half and stir constantly over medium heat, scraping the bottom as you stir until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Pour the hot mixture through the strainer into the medium bowl with the heavy cream/banana mixture. Add the vanilla extract and rum, and stir until fully incorporated and cool.
Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Pour your ice cream into a sealable container, place plastic wrap over the surface, and store it in the freezer for at least 4 hours before serving.