As time passes, family's love for dairy cream remains rich

October 19, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

I RAN INTO my cousin, Katie O'Hare, the granddaughter of my great-Aunt Cora, at the corner of 32nd and Barclay streets bright and early one Saturday not long ago. She was buying her half-gallon of South Mountain Creamery milk imported to Baltimore from Middletown in Frederick County. We then launched into a discussion of our family's mania for cream-rich dairy products - and the lengths we would go to satisfy our tastes for butterfat.

Katie recalled the early morning hours with her father, my cousin Billy-O, drinking their cream and munching on a fresh-baked cruller. As Katie spoke, her hands holding her bounty, I thought of how membership in a family provides a set of stories - and behaviors repeated with new generations.

Aunt Cora and her sister, my grandmother Lily Rose, would turn rhapsodic about the milk products they had known over the years. They went on, at length, about the superiority of Doebereiner's ice cream at 29 E. North Ave. As a child, I grew weary of these repeated stories. Then, years after their death, I met Raymond Hughes, son of one of the Doebereiner daughters. He informed me my relatives were quite right. His grandfather was likewise a food-source stickler and obtained certain dairy products from upper Midwest suppliers.

My people also liked their ice cream from the old Horn & Horn on East Baltimore Street, Fiske's on Park Avenue in Bolton Hill, Castle Farms in the city markets and Castleman Brothers, behind Maryland General Hospital.

About 40 years ago, my family discovered the Lewes Dairy, a Sussex County, Del., business that produced a heavy rich cream. I initially thought they overpraised the stuff until I heard other local food aficionados echo their assessments.

One, the late Ed Byer, who owned a renowned cheese stall in the Cross Street Market, actually began bringing the cream into Baltimore and selling it at his stall. He loved it in mashed potatoes; so did my cooks.

They were satisfied with their infusions of Lewes cream while on vacation in the summer months - and could get it at local stores. But, come fall, they still craved it.

So, whenever someone was going down to the beach off-season, my mother issued an order for cream to cross the Bay Bridge and land at Guilford Avenue. She liked it in her coffee, but more importantly, she mixed it up with strawberries for a frozen mousse-like cream made in metal ice cube trays that she preferred to commercial ice creams. She also pioneered making creme brulee - long before it began turning up regularly here. My sister, Ann, reminded me she also liked the Lewes stuff in her cream of tomato soup.

I'll never forget the weekend, maybe 25 years ago, that my brother and some of my sisters had gone to Rehoboth Beach off-season. Mama said to have a good time; and please, don't forget her standing order, two quarts.

I think Tommy J. D'Alesandro IV, the son and grandson of Baltimore mayors, was at the wheel as we ended the weekend, all the while forgetting the cream order - or just not getting around to buying it.

We were at the intersection of U.S. 113 and Route 16 when the lights of a De-Lux Dairy Store shattered the dark. I said, "Tommy, brake for cream." I ran inside, and there, partially hidden behind the low-test milk containers, sat two quarts of the high-test stuff. With a clear conscience, we sailed back to Guilford Avenue with our bounty.

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