I have the most precious friend, Janis Bunting, from Florida who always makes me glad I’ve spent time with her. She’s one of those Southern ladies who is graceful, beautiful and a great cook! She was raised in Leland, Mississippi, and has that great storytelling talent of other Deltans. During a recent visit to No Mistake Plantation, she shared her Great Aunt Vie’s favorite recipe with the NAJA Board of Directors and churned up a gallon of deliciousness for us. It hit the spot on a hot, balmy night in the Mississippi Delta and the story she shared had me reminiscing of my own childhood when my grandaddy would crank an ice cream maker by hand until the ice cream was the perfect consistency. I’ll share the story of Great Aunt Vie’s favorite “Six Threes Ice Cream” and the recipe, which is from the 1939 edition of My Better Homes & Gardens Cook Book.
“Summer brings back memories of growing up in another time, another place, almost another lifetime and certainly another world – long lazy afternoons, window air conditioners Mama would turn on ONLY when the air was thick and steamy, so heavy even the mosquitoes didn’t venture out until dusk brought cooler temperatures and light breezes. On Sunday afternoon after church, our family would gather out under the pecan trees, kids racing to get the hammock first, Mom and Dad content in the metal spring chairs fresh with green paint and hot as blazes – old pointers Lady and Princess lying in the dirt, an occasional tail switch driving away the gnats who never seemed to care how high the temperature or humidity rose, loyal to a fault and hoping for a cool treat.
The best Sundays were mid to late summer when Aunt Vie came to stay – the pears were ripe and ready for canning and ice cream was ready for the making. Vie’d ride the bus down from Little Rock and we’d pick her up at the station – saucy hat perched on white hair touched with the auburn red streaks, little white gloves on each hand. Only a maiden aunt would endure such a trip to visit nieces and nephews on the Greyhound, a relic of past glory in terms of travel and comfort. How she must have loved us to make that trip!
All week long we’d labor in the kitchen – Mom, Vie, my teenaged sister, and me – jar after jar of pears and preserves put up for the winter. At night, Vie would share my bed – one window open so the huge attic fan would draw a good breeze across us, the top sheet crumpled in a heap at the foot of the bed. Vie would always make her favorite recipes for dinner, me at her side more in the way than helping. When I was about 10, she left a special envelope in the kitchen with my name on the front – “miscellaneous recipes for Janis” – all hand written in her unique script mastered in the 20’s when school was mostly for mastering social skills needed for life as a lady and hostess.
You see, Vie – like the Greyhound she rode – was already a relic of the old South: the maiden aunt, the live-in relative who traveled from place to place and raised her nieces and nephews as her own. She must have had an inkling of what was ahead, for she left her recipes for me that summer and never made the long trip back to the Mississippi Delta. Years later, I took my fiance to the nursing home to visit Vie, who was riddled with dementia and unable to recognize us or recall the past. As we left, tears streaming down my face, Vie eased her way out into the hall and called after us – “Thanks for coming; and Janis, I like your Bill.” To this day, my family makes her Six Threes ice cream and recalls another day and time – and the love of a special lady whose life was a gift to those she cherished.” — by Janis Bunting
Great Aunt Vie’s favorite Six Threes Ice Cream
3 cups milk
3 cups cream
3 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
Juice of 3 oranges
3 bananas, mashed
Combine milk, cream and sugar; stir until sugar dissolves. Freeze in ice cream churn until the mixture is mushy. Add the juices and bananas. Continue freezing until firm. Makes about one gallon.