Last year I broke down, overcame my resistance, and finally bought an ice cream maker. Why did I wait so long? I’d been watching cooks make ice cream on the Food Network for ages, and it looked dead simple.
Ice cream makers aren’t expensive or difficult to use. No, my problem was, like lots of other machines that only do one thing, I thought it would end up in the garage. Novelty and infatuation can get you a few days of fun, months of gathering dust in the lower shelves, then a one-way ticket to the wilds of the garage where, it is said, machines go feral.
But intoxicated with a birthday gift card, I did the deed and experiments were soon underway. Trying to find a recipe for low fat frozen yogurt—that’s actually edible—were disappointing. I felt like I was pushing the river. I had an ice cream machine but I didn’t want to put any cream into it.
After a few false starts I was desperate to get something, anything edible to justify taking up half a freezer shelf with the thick freezer bowl that had to stay in there, just in case.
Paging through the booklet that came with the machine, I discovered a simple recipe for strawberry ice cream. I eat strawberries throughout the year, usually have them in the house.
But from childhood I’ve avoided strawberry ice cream, my least favorite layer in the neapolitans we had as kids. There’s something about the milk and berry thing that put me off.
Give me chocolate, vanilla, pistachio, rocky road, for God’s sake give me one of those spongy ice cream sandwiches you get for a dollar in the freezer case at the big Shell station. The ones with the white cream that’s been pumped in at a plant where they turn out 200,000 a day. The kind with a cold brick of airy vanilla between two slabs of soggy chocolate wafers. But strawberry?
Well, sometimes you just have to do what you just have to do. So off I went, carefully following the instructions until the whole mixture went into the little frozen bowl. With the motor grinding away, the bowl turned, and turned, and turned the creamy pink mixture into real ice cream, right while I was watching. I quickly stirred in the chopped berries and froze it.
Still following directions, I then softened a bit in a bowl to try it out and—Oh My God—this was strawberry ice cream transcendent. I looked around the kitchen, spoon poised in midair, as if looking for someone to ask, “Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” but of course there was no one there.
It was silky, it was sweet, but it also had a tangy note from the fresh berries. The mouthfeel was luscious, and bits of frozen berries gave some resistance and a satisfying spurt of flavor in the midst of the smooth strawberry cream. It slid down my throat.
It was so good I soon finished it. I took some more ice cream out of the freezer and waited impatiently the ten minutes or so it took to warm enough to eat. With a big mug of black coffee, it was just mind-blowingly good, fresh every bite, nonstop.
In the days that followed I ate most of the container. Whenever I was close to the freezer it was as if I could hear that creamy, seductive voice calling to me.
And that was the end. I wouldn’t make it again, because now I knew it was too good. Sadly, our household is always on a diet. Like the tarts, cookies, breads and cakes I had baked over the years, we just couldn’t sustain the caloric load the baked goods or the ice cream maker would present us with.
I found a spot for it on a high shelf above the pantry, where it sits. What did I do wrong, it seems to say, as I gently close the closet door. Nothing, I reply, as I click the cabinet shut. We’ll have a party in July.