It’s all about the Ice Cream

Two great things were waiting for me when I got back from Boise last week. The garden’s last efforts: tomatoes, chilies, and sugar pumpkins, and a copy of David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop: ice creams, sorbets, granitas and sweet accompaniments.

The later was a lovely surprise, a birthday gift from K.M.’s thoughtful cousin, Chotu. I’ve read Lebovitz’s memoir, The Sweet Life in Paris, and I follow his blog. And I’ve coveted his ice cream book for quite a while now. Finding it waiting for me after the eight-hour drive home, as I was facing up to the prospect of another few weeks of marriage-by-Skype was a much needed boost, and I can’t thank Chotu enough.

I’ve been making ice cream on and off for the past couple of years, long before I started down the sustainable food road; once you get used to eating it fresh out of churn,  the stuff in cartons – super-premium or not, doesn’t cut it anymore. And, avoiding the grocery store brands means you don’t have to give any thought to the definition of the word “natural”.

Inspired by Lebovitz, I used my homegrown pumpkins to make Pumpkin Butter-Pecan Ice Cream. I’m one of those people who loves pumpkin desserts – if you are too, give the recipe  a try. My Butter-Pecans are a slight variations on Lebovitz’s and I owe my new technique for dealing with custard ice cream entirely to The Perfect Scoop, but the pumpkin ice cream is my own creation. I’m pretty sure it is the best batch of ice cream I’ve ever made.

I’m not claiming homemade ice cream is the only kind worth eating; here in Seattle, we have quite a few local purveyors like, Full Tilt, Molly Moon, and Parfait, and my favorite, Fainting Goat Gelato, all of whom use local dairy, and produce ice creams that I dream of equaling one day. The Perfect Scoop will certainly nudge me closer.

It’s time to own up and confess. Ice cream has changed my mind about the role that taste will play in the success of the food revolution.

Fresh milk, cream, and eggs simply produce a superior flavor – not only superior to what you buy in the grocery store in a carton, but superior to what I can make with grocery store ingredients. And if I can’t have the good stuff, I’d rather skip it. It’s the familiar coffee conundrum; I grew up drinking the canned variety brewed by my parent’s trusty Mr. Coffee, but I don’t drink it anymore. And I bet you don’t either. Premium beans, freshly roasted, simply taste better.

Isn’t the push for premium everything just a way companies get us to pay $3.50 for a cup of coffee? To need things we never even knew about ten years ago? (Data phones come to mind. Do I really need to have access to Google 24/7? I know the answer to this, yet you’ll have to pry my iphone out of my cold, dead hands), something different is going on with food. The coffee I buy isn’t the same as what my parents drank – though it may be closer to what their grandparents drank – when they were lucky enough to find it, and afford it.

I recently read Andrew Beahrs ‘s bookTwain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens, the central argument of which is that the simple joy Americans once took in food has hugely diminished, because the food we eat simply isn’t what it once was. Beahrs effectively argues that this isn’t nostalgia, but simple fact.

Last spring, when I started this blog, I said that I saw taste as a secondary factor to the moral and ethical imperative propelling me to try to eat in a new way. In fact, I said I doubted I’d be able to taste much difference.  But one food after another, from tomatoes, pasteurized chicken, carrots and fava beans from my CSA, dairy from local farms, and the chilies I grew in my raised beds, kept proving me wrong. After six months, I’m hooked on real food.

And by the way, Pumpkin Butter-Pecan Ice Cream makes a great breakfast. After all, it’s really just eggs, milk and squash, right?

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