I’ve written a thousand words to explain why–aside from a holiday gift guide–I haven’t shown up here for a year. I try to describe what the past two years have been; I rearrange the words and delete them. I wanted to have clean answers for you. I wanted to write: this is what happened; this is how I resolved it, full stop. I can’t, though. I’m still in the trenches of it. I’ve only reached the point where I feel a tug to make things again. It’s thin.
I got sick. I got the kind of sick that’s nebulous. The kind where you say, “I’m sleeping twenty hours a day, and I’ve gained forty pounds in six months,” and the doctor sends you to a dietician. Twice. The kind where every test reveals more irregularities. Finally you are prescribed medication by an endocrinologist, and it makes a small dent. And so you dive deep into Eastern remedies, but they mostly don’t work either. You spend a mess of time and money and time and money throwing your hopes and tenacity into the next thing and the next thing. You keep trudging. People have opinions about how you are not trying correctly, and you want to throw something against a wall. You relinquish gluten and dairy and sugar and alcohol. Your elbows are less dry than before, but otherwise you lose not one ounce. It feels like a weight has taken residence on your chest. You think, “am I going crazy?” In the new year, you summon the energy to begin cardio dance classes taught by amazonian former rockettes. By accident, you realize that it’s possible to move the needle by degrees, but only if you relax. And so you practice not being the type A freak you are, even though every moment is very difficult. You keep practicing. Nothing is resolved how you’d like it to be and the days are long and the years are short.
It starts to feel better to create things again than the fear and exhaustion and disingenuousness that prevented you from doing so the year before. You are reminded by a friend that hiding from writing won’t make reality untrue. You remember Flannery O’Connor who said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” And Joan Didion who mirrored, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” Writing about this thing though feels insurmountable, and so you start small, in the second person, with a recipe containing essentially three ingredients.
Maybe you are not meant to mention such things on a food blog? I don’t know. I’ve never been a particularly successful food blogger. I don’t know who will read these words. I do know I’ve felt enormously alone these past two years. I know invisible things have wreaked havoc on my mind and body, and that my feelings surrounding that fact have gone largely unanswered.
In a post about frilly ice cream floats, I’m sharing a sliver of the story, a little for me, and a little for you; if you need it. I’m trying to figure my way out of the woods. If you are too: I believe you. You are not alone.
There’s nothing complex or fussy about these floats. They’re quite endlessly adaptable: use whichever summer fruits you have about: strawberries, currents, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines. (Basically, anything juicy and bright.) These floats taste more fruit-forward than outright sweet, so make sure to use the best, ripest fruit you have on hand. You can use a sweeter soda if you want to, or add a splash of grenadine, fruit syrup, or crème de cassis.
Choose (good-quality) store-bought vanilla ice cream, or double down with a fruit-flavored ice cream. (Or chocolate fudge, or peanut butter ripple!) Below though, you’ll find a Philadelphia Vanilla recipe I wrote; it’s become my go-to for dinner parties, and is really easy to make.
I like these for summer because they’re just what I want: tart, creamy and luscious. They take advantage of what the season has to offer, and are dead easy to put together. You can make it for a crowd. If you want to up the ante, cook down the fruit with sugar and aromatics (fresh herbs, pink peppercorns, ginger), or just macerate for 30 minutes, while you eat dinner.
Makes 4 floats
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 cup pitted cherries
- 1 cup diced peaches
- 1 cup black raspberries or blackberries
- 4 teaspoons sugar, divided
- 1 pint vanilla ice cream
- 1 liter (4 heaping cups) seltzer
- Pour each fruit into a separate small bowl; toss each with 1 teaspoon of sugar. Let the fruit sit for fifteen minutes, or up to 1 hour.
- Divide the fruit between four, 8-ounce glasses. You can make single flavor floats, or mix and match the fruit. (For the photos, I used two kinds of fruit per glass.) Divide the ice cream between the four glasses–2 smallish scoops, or 1/2 cup ice cream, per glass. Just before serving, fill the glasses with seltzer. Serve with spoons and straws.
Philadelphia-Style Super Vanilla
This ice cream–which doesn’t require messing about with eggs or a custard base–is light and dairy forward, so use the best you can source. It’s wonderful right out of the machine, and best within the first few days of making.
Makes 1 quart (950ml)
- 1 1/4 cup (300 ml/10 oz) whole milk
- 1 3/4 cups (415 ml/14 oz) heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons (13 grams) skim milk powder
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (125 grams) sugar
- 1 split, scraped vanilla bean (both seeds and pod)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon dark rum
- In a medium-sized pot, whisk together the milk, cream, skim milk powder, sugar, vanilla bean, vanilla extract, and rum. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer; whisk to dissolve the sugar. Chill the base in the refrigerator overnight, or for at least 4 hours.
- When the base is cold, pour it through a sieve; discard the vanilla bean. Pour the base into an ice cream maker. Let the machine run based on the manufacturer’s instructions, about 35 minutes. Eat straight from the machine, fresh and soft serve-like, or spoon into a container and freeze.