August 3, 2010

The Old Well

Posted in Children, Family, Food, Garden, Serbia tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 8:24 am by Liliana

The Old Well

The Old Well

In the corner of my grandparents’ garden stood an old well. It had been there for a long time, hundreds of years.

During the early part of my childhood, before there was plumbing installed in the village, all the water for cooking, bathing, drinking and animals was fetched from the bucket in that well.

The children knew not to go near it. The well was very deep and dark, and if anyone fell in, they would not survive.

Although there was electricity in my grandfather’s house, in the early 1960’s my grandparents didn’t own a refrigerator. No one in the village did. No one owned any kind of modern day appliance – no electric ranges, no washing machines and certainly no dishwashers. Those came gradually and later, in the late 60’s and 70’s. Before that, people used wooden stoves for cooking and heating, and all the washing was done by hand. The water was pulled from the well.

Because there was no refrigeration, the food had to be eaten quickly. Chickens were prepared by my grandmother the same day that my grandfather slaughtered them. Fruits and vegetables were picked and consumed the same day. We ate what was ripe and in season.

Sometimes, my mother made ice cream and we children helped. I still remember the steps.

My grandfather would bring a bucket of heavy cream, skimmed of the milk that his dairy cows provided that morning. He would place it in the cool of the veranda while we washed berries or pealed fresh peaches, or other fruit from the garden trees.

Our mother would cook the cream with the fruit, stirring and adding a bit of sugar if needed, until the concoction thickened. Then we poured it into porcelain cups, which she placed in the well bucket, and lowered into the coolness of the water so it would solidify.

But no matter how long we waited, and the time seemed awfully long, our ice cream was never the same as the ice cream we bought in the store. It was cold, but never frozen.

It was smooth, creamy, fruity and delicious. Different generations assembled in the cool shade of the veranda, eating ice cream with tea spoons out of those delicate porcelain cups.

“This is not frozen enough to be ice cream,” one of the children complained.

“Maybe not ice, but it is cream,” my grandfather answered. And no matter how many times he said it, we always laughed.

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