There are lots of things that make me happy–road trips, a purring cat on my lap, an enthusiastic hug from a child. But nothing, I mean nothing compares to the joy I feel cooking for my family and friends.
It’s why you do it, right?
I’ve been accused of “showing off” or “trying to impress” with my culinary skills. And, yes, maybe there is something to that. But truthfully, my reasons are totally selfish. Feeding people – whether it’s 200 people or just my husband – brings sheer satisfaction.
Perhaps I forgot to mention I have a rep as Her Royal Highness, Queen of the Misanthropes. It’s not undeserved. But even the cranky need to feel happy. (Don’t even argue with me on this point, OK?)
As one of my friends has told me repeatedly through the years: “Hey, Laura Jeanne, if it doesn’t make you happy, why do it?”
Damn right. Why buy children toys when you can slave over a hot stove on a sweltering day to make them strawberry ice cream and watch them lick the bowl? Sure, making a pit stop at the toyshop takes little effort, but believe me, my investment reaps a higher yield for the long term, as they say on Wall Street.
A couple of weeks ago, my two favorite pixies Melanie, 5, and Paige, 3, asked me when I was going to make ice cream again. Well, Auntie’s been hoarding native strawberries in the freezer, kids. Any day now…
My “need to feed” isn’t exclusive to my family circle. For instance, it’s the reason behind the rush I got every year while serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless on the parquet at Boston’s TD Garden when I was a newspaper columnist.
I certainly didn’t prepare the food, but I enjoyed dishing it out and talking to the guests in line. The people probably didn’t smile much any other day, but, c’mon, whose eyes don’t light up at a big scoop of stuffing?
The other day, I joined fellow staffers from Flour Bakery + Café to serve dinner at Pine Street Inn, a local homeless shelter. Again, we didn’t cook the meal. We didn’t even bake the cake for dessert. But I found when one makes eye contact, smiles and delivers a big scoop of macaroni salad they usually got a response. Lots of men thanked us for stopping by. It felt gooood.
For years, I’ve joked with my parents that if I, their misanthropic spawn, ever owned a restaurant, they would have to deal with the front of the house. Just keep me in the kitchen to rattle the pots ‘n’ pans and away from the paying public. Oh, how we laugh and laugh…
Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s age or perhaps the annoying phrase “change of life” means more to me than just hot flashes, mood swings and belly flab. Have I finally learned to make myself happy? Let me chew on that…
AUNTIE LAURA’S STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM
1-3/4 c. heavy cream
3 strips of lemon zest
¼ t. salt
2 large eggs
¾ c. sugar
1 lb. strawberries (3 cups), trimmed, hulled PLUS
1 c. strawberries, trimmed, hulled and sliced
1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. pomegranate juice
Combine cream, zest, and salt in a heavy saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat and discard zest.
Whisk eggs with ½ c. sugar in a bowl, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking. Pour back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and an instant-read thermometer hits 170 degrees. Do not boil. (The boiling point is 212 degrees, so watch the thermometer like a hawk!)
Immediately pour custard through a fine sieve into a metal bowl, then cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, at least until cold, about 2 hours, or up to 1 day.
While custard is chilling, puree 1 pound of strawberries with remaining ¼ cup sugar and lemon in a blender until smooth, then force the mixture through a fine sieve into the chilled custard. Stir puree into the custard. Add pomegranate juice and the sliced strawberries.*
Transfer the mixture into an ice cream maker and prepare according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it’s done, scoop the ice cream into an airtight container and put in the freezer to harden.
The ice cream keeps for a week.
* To keep the sliced strawberries from hardening like little rocks in the ice cream, you can macerate them in 1 or 2 tablespoons of kirsch, framboise or vodka before adding them in. The alcohol prevents hardening. Perhaps if this recipe is made for children, you’d prefer to skip this step.
© The Foodsmith @ lauraraposa.com, 2013.