My mother-in-law loved to tell me stories about growing up in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 1940s. The current heatwave in Brooklyn reminded me of some stories about her mother, Rose. Despite the scarcities of the Depression and World War II years, Rose managed to find a way to give her children frozen treats in the summertime.
From these stories, two of Grandma Rose’s frozen treats stand out in my mind: layered fruit and Italian ice. Both used natural ingredients and only required the use of a freezer.
Layered fruit was as simple as it sounds. Grandma Rose froze or hard-chilled layers of fruit. That’s it! By using local, in-season fruits, Rose could serve her children this sweet frozen treat even during the days of sugar rationing. I think this would be delicious served with ice cream or whipped cream on top or drizzled with melted chocolate.
The other treat, which Grandma Rose called Italian ice, was just as simple to make. She would fill a container with fruit juice and put it in the freezer. Every hour or so, she would scrape the frozen juice from the sides into the middle so that the rest of the juice could freeze until it reached a nice slushy consistency. Any kind of juice would be good for this, lemonade, or maybe even pureed fruit like the berries that are in season right now.
I tried both of these desserts this weekend during the heatwave that kept me indoors. I used grapefruit juice for my Italian ice and bananas and oranges for the layered fruit treat. My experiment was a success! They were yummy and so easy to make. In fact, young kids might enjoy making these frozen treats on a hot summer day, experimenting with how icy they want them.
Even though times were hard, Grandma Rose found a way to make fun and tasty summertime treats for her children. If you are lucky enough to know anyone of this generation, talk to them. We can learn a lot from them about sustainability and enjoying the simple things in life.