The day that Ethel stumbles Upon Dulce de Leche quiet had settled on the house in minutes after the hubbub of three children and a less than patient mother left. The only sounds disturbing the peace were bugs flying into the window screen and bees buzzing in the flower bed underneath the window. Ethel’s bustlings about the kitchen exaggerated the silence. Quiet as a church; she thought as she filled the big stock full of water. She had to chuckle; dem children do make some noise.
The family had gone off to a peach orchard ostensibly to pick some fruit. Ethel was quite sure that if there were a bushel of peaches already picked it would be that they would bring home. She couldn’t see Miz Ginny having the patience to allow her three youngest to swarm about in a peach orchard no matter how much she loved homemade peach ice cream. It surprised her when her employer suggested the idea at breakfast that morning.
She turned the heat on low under the big stockpot. “Dat out to be good in hot by the time dey gets home,” she said out loud. I’ll jest get the fixin’s ready, and good an’ cold. Knowin’ Miz Ginny she’ll be wantin’ some ice cream lickity-split.” While the water was heating up, she decided she’d use her neat trick for extracting ever last bit of goodness out of the sweetened condensed milk can. She popped it into the warming pot. As partial as Ethel was to sweets, she hated missing out on a single drop of the delicious nectar. Warming it, a touch, made it flow out of its can just perfectly. “Jest put you there for a minute or two while I get the cream and evaporated milk and almond extract mixed up.” She was setting about gathering her ingredients when the phone rang.
“Berta, I ain’t talked to you in a coon’s age. How you doin’?” She settled herself down in the chair by the phone for a nice long talk with her sister. A half and hour or so later all caught up on the gossip she bid her sister goodbye. “Dis is a good time to be getting the sheets changed,” she said as she lumbered up the steps. Ethel was in the habit of talking out loud to herself when she was alone.
After stripping all the beds, she made them with the crisp, clean sheets fresh from the City Laundry. The dirty sheets she balled up into a neat parcel. She hauled it to the top of the stairs and gave it a push with her foot. As s the bundle rolled down the steps she watched, absently. Before coming down herself, she neated up each of the rooms. She picked up the clothes on the floor in Sallee and Helen’s room and put them in the dirty clothes basket. “I’ll do they wash tomorrow,” she said, I might as well bring down Miz Ginny’s hand-washing though.”
Before coming down herself, she neated up each of the rooms. She picked up the clothes on the floor in Sallee and Helen’s room. Putting them in the dirty clothes basket she said,. “I’ll do they wash tomorrow. I might as well bring down Miz Ginny’s hand-washing though.”
As she was coming down the stairs, it occurred to her that the trip to the orchard had taken much longer than she had anticipated. She checked her watch to see that three hours had passed since they had left. “Dey should be home mos’ anytime now,” she said as she hauled the bundle of sheets out to the kitchen porch for the laundry man to pick up later that morning.
As she placed Miz Ginny’s delicates on the counter to be washed, she spied the steam rising lazily from the stock pot. “I forgot all about dat,” she hustled over to see that the water level hadn’t dropped so much that the pot was in danger to scorching. Sitting at the bottom of the pot was the little can of condensed milk. “I bet you is good an’ cooked now. I ‘spect I’m gonna have to throw you out.” She fished the can out of its hot water bath with tongs and placed it on the counter to cool.
Later when her ice cream mixture was cooling in the icebox, she went back to the little can. Ethel was loathed to toss a can of condensed milk into the trash. “How could cooking it have hurt it?” she wondered.
Ethel didn’t know as she gazed into the can of warm brown liquid that what she was looking at was called Dulce de Leche. What she did know was it was some kind of good!