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  • Seth Kantner

March 25, 2020

Kotzebue--the sky is hazy and a cold north wind has picked up. Oh, well, there goes our beautiful fresh snow. This morning when I looked out pure golden sun was coming low across sparkling smooth snow. The light had that spring quality, long and orange and blue, full of promise of a huge land stretching on forever. I couldn't help thinking of my friend Alvin Williams. As kids we loved days like this. We'd get our gear and guns and head out roaming and hunting with snowshoes, and in later years with our dog teams, and later our snowmobiles. That was upriver. Here on the coast soft fluffy snow is rare because the wind blows so much. I kind of planned to write about politics today but with this special snow I'm more interested in ice cream. Ice cream has been important ALL my life and a lot of it was snow ice cream. My dad, Howie, made snow ice cream at night when I was a young kid--sometimes every night for a week if we had fluffy snow. He has a sweet tooth and would send one of us boys out with two buckets and a spatula to gather the surface powder. It was scary out there in that darkness that went on forever, on to Greenland or so, but worth it. I knew to take the time to be careful and not dig deep and get grainy snow. Everything had to be chilled--the mixing bowl, a can of milk, even the bowls and spoons we ate with we put outside. We didn't have a freezer but we had the world and it was cold! Sometimes Howie stoked the stove, too, with pitchy wood to get the oven hot, and made oatmeal cookies. I think eating caribou meat three meals a day makes a person extra hungry for carbohydrates. Upriver i still use that big stainless steel bowl and big wooden spoon he used. I need to make another spoon like that for here. Straight-down snow is the main ingredient, and milk and sugar and vanilla. It helps to have old-fashioned whole milk powder. When i was a kid people ordered 50lb sacks of Darigold powdered milk--a normal necessity along with coffee, sugar, flour, skin-needles and gunpowder. Last night when that snow was coming straight down I got excited and went out with a spatula to gather the top layer. A rabbit had left fresh tracks out there, anxious to check our compost pile, and the snow was sparkly and i really wanted to stay out and play ChaseShadows or something but our daughter is down in Anchorage helping out with the crisis and not here to play our old games. When i came back inside I realized we have no wooden spoon and the mixing bowl has tapered sides--terrible--and I kept spilling trying to whip it. Anyway, here's how: chill everything, pour maybe 1/3 cup sugar, a teaspoon or two of vanilla, and half a can of evaporated milk in a large bowl. Add a small heap of snow. Stir. Add powdered milk (Not MILKMAN!) or more canned milk. Tilt the bowl, stir and then whip as it starts to melt. Add more fluffy snow. Beat it, and taste--Maybe more milk, sugar, vanilla, snow? Now is the time to get some exercise and get serious whipping it creamy. In the end it should be soft-serve, like DairyQueen was before all the new chemicals. Quick! Send someone out for those cold bowls! Anyway, for all you folks out there with fluffy snow, give it a try. And for anyone who doesn't have a lifetime of good feelings about snow, maybe this will help.


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©Seth Kantner
Alaska Wildlife Photography  |  Alaska Writer

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