As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I grew up on what was considered “the family farm” or as my aunts would have called it, “The Faahm!” They definitely carried that Boston Accent throughout their lives, growing up in Somerville, Medford, and a very large beach house in Hull (or Quincy, or Nantasket, or somewhere out there… the house was torn down long before I came along, but I’ve seen pictures). And because my grandfather allowed us to live there, but we didn’t actually own the place, my aunts, uncles, and numerous cousins felt it was fine to just show up whenever there was a sunny day and it was summer.
Sunny Sundays when family just shows up
I have no idea how my parents really felt about it, but neither of them spoke up when it came to family, pretty much ever. My father only got one day off a week, and he primarily used it to complain about going to church, to read the Boston Globe from cover to cover and dump each section on the floor when he’d finished, and to enjoy Sunday dinner, and maybe a drive. But some summer Sundays we’d hear cars driving up the driveway, and people slamming doors in the yard and we’d know. The aunts, my grandfather, and numerous cousins would be spending the day, and sometimes well into the evening enjoying their childhood summer home.
No alcohol in the house
As I’ve also mentioned previously, alcohol had a role in our lives, but that is one place my father put his foot down. While my grandfather drank whisky straight up in a juice glass, and most of the other relatives on that side drank beer and “high balls,” my father did not allow alcohol in our house! Not even to cook with.
So when the coolers came out of the trunks of all those cars, my father made it clear, they could sit in the shade of the house, but they would not be kept in our refrigerator. I’m always surprised that this rule was honored, but I have a feeling my aunts totally understood it. They’d grown up with my grandfather and his ruling hand and I think realized the reason for my father’s only “house rule.” Those afternoons definitely involved a lot of laughter, a lot of loud talk, and my neighbors were fortunate to live a full acre or more away from us, so they didn’t hear as much as we did.
A picnic is a picnic
Yes, we did have a BBQ grill back then, but I think for the most part, my aunts brought sandwich stuff. Cold cuts, chicken salad, chips, soda for the kids. My mother would have made up a big pitcher of kool-aid.
I remember trying to help her one time. She poured the sugary powder into a big bowl and I was sitting right next to that bowl. I couldn’t resist inhaling the wonderful berry-scented air… and a ton of that powder at the same time! I started coughing violently and couldn’t get air into my lungs at all, even though I wasn’t choking on anything. My mother started whacking my back. One of my aunts told me to hold my hands up over my head, and my cousin Stephen (my best friend when I was little) mentioned that I’d just inhaled half a packet of kool-aid. My mother grabbed a glass of cold water and told me to drink. Try drinking when you’re coughing up pink powder and you can imagine my struggle. But drink it I did, and immediately the coughing stopped, and all I could taste (and smell) was raspberries. I never made that mistake again.
Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour
Summer Sundays are a sensory memory for me. I do remember a few activities from those afternoons:
- My grandfather lighting cherry bombs and dropping them into my Aunty Kay’s coffee cup she’d carefully placed under her lawn chair to protect it from getting kicked over
- Little Billy (not my brother but a member of extended family) grabbing the garden hose and shrieking with laughter as we tried to get to him to take the hose away and prevent him from soaking everyone
- Walks through what my aunts called, “The Tremont,” – actually the old path to the railroad tracks. Basically the same route we took to go fishing on the Ipswich. They always collected milkweed leaves on the walk back to cook up later.
- Getting money from my grandfather or a couple aunts to walk down to “the packie” to pick up more beer and “butts.” Yes back in those days, kids were not only trusted to walk a mile to a local package store, but the guy that ran it would sell us alcohol and cigarettes. And we’d bring back everything, untouched, and with the change!
I’d also remember the evenings. We didn’t have air conditioning, and only one box fan. Our house wasn’t shaded by trees, and didn’t offer much in the way of cross breezes. So we’d position a box fan on a chair in the doorway between the living room and the kitchen. Around 7 pm, Ted Mack’s Amateur Hour (the 60s equivalent of Americal Idol and America’s Got Talent) would start.
Don’t believe me? Check out this sample of the show.
Grilled Cheese reminds me of childhood summers
We always had grilled cheese sandwiches on those nights. Easy to make, cheap to make, and light enough not to compete with whatever we’d eaten that afternoon. Then the adults (and a few teenage cousins) would gather around the kitchen table and play cards, using a big can of matches as money. I don’t really remember my mother playing. She was busy making grilled cheese. I’m not sure if my father played but I don’t think he watched TV with us, so perhaps he just sat and watched. But I know that they all stayed far past our bedtime, and far past my parents’ bedtime, too. My mother and father usually got up very early Monday mornings, so she could drive my father (and all of us in our pajamas) to Chelsea to drop him off at work, so we could have the car for the day.
But on Sundays when everyone came to “the fahm” I think my father just enjoyed having his sisters around, and maybe it brought back the good memories of childhood, that seemed to be few and far between.
What I’d do if things were different
My grandfather passed away in the 80s. He was 90 years old! And he was a rounder til his final day as I mentioned in a previous post. When we had to find a life care facility for him, it was hard to place him. He was violent occasionally. He could also wiggle his way out of any straight-jacket or straps meant to keep him in a wheelchair, and was always disappearing at the hospital. Some people who knew my grandfather might say “good enough for him” but I also saw some good in there mixed in with the violence and control.
We found a private home nearby where he shared a room with one other person. He had to eat in his room though because he’d steal food from other residents. He also got private trips to the beach with a bodyguard. This allowed him to get out and walk, smoke a cigar, and see the ocean, which I think was his favorite place to be. He only lived there for about a year, but by that time he was very confused, couldn’t speak, and it was sad to see how small he’d become, with white hair down to his shoulders, a constant mutter, and no longer able to play the endless checker games many of us remember. When he went, it was in a day or two. And by that time, visits to the fahm stopped. Probably because my father then finally owned the property we grew up on.
If I’d had my way, once I was out of college, I think I’d have added a special dessert to those days of long ago. I started cooking more and more at that time, and always looked for special recipes to share with family and friends on holidays or special Sundays. This recipe is a variation of one I made years ago (then it was a chocolate peppermint stick log) but I hope you enjoy! It’s simple to make actually, and tastes amazing. Plus you an make the roll part and freeze it for later! That’s what we’re doing.
Pina Colada Ice Cream Roll
- 4 large eggs (room temperature)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp coconut extract
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 gallon coconut low fat ice cream, softened
- 12 oz jar pineapple ice cream topping
- 1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
- whipping cream and more coconut flakes
- Confectioner’s sugar for dusting your dishtowel
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees
- Spray a shallow baking pan (I use a jelly roll pan) with cooking spray, then line with waxed paper or no-stick baking paper. Spray the paper as well. Set aside
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs for 3 minutes until foamy. Gradually add the sugar until mixture thickens slightly and becomes lemon yellow.
- Beat in the vanilla.
- Combine remaining dry ingredients except the coconut flakes, confectioner’s sugar, whipped cream and topping (okay those last two aren’t dry so…). Then fold dry mixture carefully into the egg mixture. Do not beat. You want to retain the light airiness for your sponge.
- Spread the batter into your prepared pan.
- Bake for 10 – 12 minutes until cake springs back when touched. It might be slightly browned on the edges but very lightly.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then invert onto linen dish towel dusted well with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off the paper.
- Roll up the cake, in the towel, as though you’re rolling up a jelly roll, and allow to cool completely.
- Spread cooled cake with pineapple topping, sprinkle with coconut flakes, and then spread ice cream. Roll back up and freeze until firm, or up to two weeks.
For Pina Colada topping
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp coconut extract
- 1 tsp coconut rum
- 1 tsp pineapple rum
- 2 TB powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup chopped dried pineapple chunks
Whip together until cream forms stiff peaks. Be careful not to overwhip. Spread the cream on the coconut roll, decorate with dried pineapple chunks and a few maraschino cherries! Emjoy!!!
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