A New Family Favorite

When I found out I had diabetes, I was worried I would never be able to have one of our favorite dessert recipes again!

By Wanda Burgess, Dallas, Texas

As appeared in

Summer Sundays mean peach ice cream, at least for my family. One of the traditions of my Georgia girlhood was all of us getting together at Aunt Vedie’s after church. Everybody brought something: fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, fresh rolls, pies, my mom’s pineapple-coconut cake.

The breeze drifted in from the hills. The grown-ups sat in the shade of the old walnut trees, talking and fanning themselves, but we kids raced each other to what we knew was the coolest spot: Aunt Vedie’s hand-cranked ice-cream maker.

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She’d mix just-picked peaches from her orchard with cream, milk, sugar, eggs and vanilla. We’d pack ice in the tub, sprinkle it with salt and take turns at the handle, all for a simple reward: the first taste of peach ice cream.

I married a navy man, and Jim’s career took us all over the country. From Key West and Pensacola, Florida, to Brunswick, Maine; from San Diego, California, to Norfolk, Virginia, I made sure to bring a taste of home with me. I made my family recipes for Jim and our three girls.

Guess what they asked for every summer? Fresh peach ice cream.

I remember a picnic we navy wives put on. I set up our old-fashioned ice-cream maker. “What’s that?” Jim’s commander asked, looking at it as though it were a badger trap.

“That’s how we’re going to make dessert,” I replied. I gave the commander a quick demonstration and he took to cranking like a sailor working the winches. We made (and ate) a lot of ice cream that day.

The trick was keeping a stash of Georgia peaches. They’re harvested from May through July. I can’t tell you how many ways I devised of bringing them back to wherever we happened to be stationed. I’ve canned them, pickled them, frozen them. On one trip home we packed them in ice.

As soon as we were on base, I sliced them, sprinkled them with sugar, then put them in containers in the freezer to preserve that summer-fresh flavor.

In 1980 Jim retired from the Navy and took a job with Texas Instruments. We settled in Dallas, which was where our grandchildren got their first taste of those summer Sundays, even if the ice-cream maker was electric—no cranking necessary—and the cool breeze came from our air-conditioner.

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After our move, a terrifying bout of acute pancreatitis put me in the I.C.U. for six weeks. The doctors said there was no medical reason I should’ve survived. I knew it had to be the Lord, and I thanked him for his goodness.

The doctors had to remove my spleen, gallbladder and part of my pancreas. As a result, I developed diabetes. I had to take insulin daily for a while (though now I take oral medication), monitor my blood sugar and modify my diet.

My medical crisis made my daughters get their health checked. They were at high risk for diabetes. Was this the end of family dinners? How would I cook for everyone now?

Slowly, through trial and error, I discovered what worked. If we had pasta or potatoes at lunch, then no bread too (had to watch those carbs). I had to be selective with fruit; some have a naturally high sugar content. Blackberries, blueberries and apples were fine, and peaches weren’t as bad as I’d feared.