“It matters because food matters, and because the stories that are served with food matter. These stories bind our family together, and bind our family to others. Stories about food are stories about us- our history and our values. Within my family’s Jewish tradition, I came to learn that food serves two parallel purposes: it nourishes and it helps you remember. Eating and storytelling are inseparable…”
-Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
It is true that food punctuates our lives, and in many cases, provides us with some of our best stories. It is also true that I am madly in love with Jonathan Safran Foer, and therefore plan to include him in this blog as much as possible. To further introduce myself, but also to support J.S.F.’s theory that food and storytelling are inseparable, I thought it might be interesting to make a timeline of some of my most memorable food moments. It would look a little something like this:
Age 1: My parents start to worry that my voracious appetite and their inability to satiate it might be contributing to world hunger.
Age 2: I develop an unhealthy attachment to both green and black olives, which I affectionately peg “ollies.” This causes two problems: A. I throw an “OLLLLLLIEEEEEEEE” tantrum if I can’t have at least one jar a day, and B. My hand occasionally gets stuck in the jar, resulting in yet another conniption. Terrible twos? Nah…
Age 3: While at the Philadelphia Folk Fest, an annual excuse for adults to get inebriated while listening to great live music, I stumble upon a plate of pot brownies and eat ALL of them. The adults in my life monitor my drug overdose by staring at a cross-eyed (but very content) me for hours, praying they wouldn’t have to explain this mishap to the authorities. While no photographic proof of this particular instance exists, here is a picture of me at the festival as a baby. From this gem of a photo, we can deduce the quality of my supervision.
Three was a rather momentous year for me. Not long after the happy brownie incident, I am left alone with a Kahlua milkshake. It should come as no surprise that the shake, in its entirety, ended up in my belly.
Since my drug and alcohol-induced stupor began at the innocent age of 3, the years between 3 and 9 are a bit of a blur. However, there is no shortage of pictures that capture the pure enjoyment I experienced as a youngster while eating. Can you guess which one is me in the next pic? Notice that in addition to DESTROYING this Kodak moment, I am also donning a McDonald’s wardrobe.
Or how about this one? Did I just finish eating a black marker? If so, am I supposed to be this happy about it?
Age 9: My mom and I wait a torturous 45 minutes in a funnel cake line at a carnival. Upon receiving my piping hot confection, I proceed to drop it face-down in the mud, which was covered in spilt beer, condiments, spit, and other things I dare not contemplate. I scoop it off the ground with its fresh coat of disgustingness and devour it while my mom observes in horror, trying her darnedest not to gag.
Age 11- We take a family trip to Disney World. We are there for a week, and I am sure it was great, but I have trouble remembering anything aside from the sausage and sauerkraut fest we partook in at Epcot Center. Since both sauerkraut and sausage can be purchased at…A GROCERY STORE, my mom vows never to take me on an expensive vacation again.
Age 12- My mom forgets her vow and takes me to the Indy 500. I am thoroughly bored by the cars, and bothered by the noise, so I spend the entire race daydreaming about the hand-dipped peanut butter cup milkshake I had on our first night in Indiana. Steak ‘n Shake, if you ever feel under-appreciated for the attention you devote to your milk to ice cream ratio, remember this: I’m your #1 fan.
Age 13- Five boys challenge me to a honeybun eating contest at school. They evidently didn’t realize that eating eight honeybuns in a row was just another day for me.
Age 14- Up to this point, I have proven that I definitely know how to EAT, but this is where my tastes become more refined. For my 14th birthday, I request subscriptions to Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines. I subsequently discover that talking about oven-roasted lamb chops with mint chimichurri doesn’t really gain you popularity in middle school. I start saving my allowance for Philadelphia’s many phenomenal restaurants.
Age 15- I take my first trip to Europe. My mom asks for a pair of leather boots from Italy. Instead of completing that purchase, I become intoxicated by Italian gelato and spend 85% of my savings on the aforementioned frozen temptress. The other 15% was spent on the work of art known as the French fruit pastry. Europe, you really bring out the worst in me.
Age 17- present- I start a series of relationships in which my boyfriends feel irked and even jealous at times about my relationship with food/the effect it has on my physique. To illustrate their sentiments, allow me to enumerate some of their quotes. To appreciate the sheer ridiculousness of some of their statements, I will clarify that I have never been overweight.
Boyfriend 1: “I think you are the largest girl I have ever dated. Uh, I mean you have birthing hips. No, that’s not what I meant. Maybe you are just big-boned.” Birthing hips? AWKWARD!
Boyfriend 2, after I start weeping (quite literally) upon realizing that my favorite sandwich shop was closed on one of my last days in the U.S. for over two years: “I am not comforting you because I find it extremely disturbing that you are crying over pulled pork and aged provolone, yet you have never shed a tear over our relationship.” Touché.
Boyfriend 3, who once appreciated my ravenous appetite: “My friends were asking me what you are like, and all I could think of saying was, ‘She really likes food.’ Do you think it’s maybe time for a new hobby?” OUCH!
Boyfriend 4, in an effort to be…affectionate?: “You’re so…gooey.” Could we all join forces to make sure this is the last time EVER that a boyfriend describes his girlfriend as “gooey”?
I guess when George Bernard Shaw said, “there is no sincerer love than the love of food”, he wasn’t kidding. Or maybe he was just referring to people like me.
Age 25- My dad comes to visit me abroad and I have him bring my host family a shoe-fly pie, an Amish specialty from our area. As soon as I see it, I wonder why I didn’t request one for myself. While we are away from the hotel, an army of ants attacks the pie. I see these creatures enjoying a delicacy they do not deserve, and my body kicks into survival mode. While my dad is in the bathroom, I start shoving the pie into my mouth by the fistful, ants and all. My dad exits the bathroom to my molasses-streaked face, and like the good dad he is, he knows better than to ask any questions.
Age 26- I am appointed by my work colleagues to confront our boss about a raise. He, in front our entire staff, says, “Do you think your insatiable appetite has anything to do with your wanting more money?” Wow, I guess the secret’s out. We didn’t get much of a raise.
Age 28- Since my life clearly revolves around food, which some of you may find pathetic (don’t worry, I’m not offended), I decide to start a blog. I hope it brings other people as much pleasure as it is bringing me!
Now, for today’s recipe. Since ice cream was an underlying theme in the above post, and it is almost summer in the U.S., do yourself a favor and get an ice cream maker and make the following recipe. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed. In the meantime, I want to know your favorite food memories!
My friend Gene introduced me to this recipe a few years ago. I believe it was featured in Gourmet magazine five years back. Don’t be discouraged by the seemingly complex directions. Yes, it takes a while to make. And yes, it will be worth the trouble. It is the best ice-cream I have ever had, and that includes the pounds of gelato I ate while in Italy. The creaminess of the ice cream paired with the crunchiness of the cinnamon toast is heavenly. I know you’ll love it.
Cinnamon Toast Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/4 quarts. Active time: 40 min. Start to finish:4 1/4 hours (includes freezing)
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
- 5 slices firm white sandwich bread
- 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 6 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon molasses
- 1 cup heavy cream
Special equipment: an instant-read thermometer; an ice cream maker (I recommend the Donvier 1 quart ice cream maker)
1. Bring milk and cinnamon sticks to a boil in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, then remove from heat and let steep, covered, 30 minutes.
2. While milk steeps, put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 300ºF.
3. Cut 3 slices bread into 1/4-inch cubes and transfer to a bowl. Quarter remaining 2 slices and pulse in a food processor to make bread crumbs. Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and ground cinnamon in another bowl. Drizzle 3 tablespoons butter mixture over bread cubes and stir to lightly coat. Spread in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan. Add bread crumbs to remaining butter mixture and stir to evenly coat. Spread crumbs evenly in another shallow baking pan.
4. Bake bread cubes and crumbs, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until golden brown and crisp, about 25 minutes total. Cool in pans on racks, then transfer bread crumbs to a bowl.
5. Return milk to a boil, then pour over bread crumbs and let stand 10 minutes. Pour milk through a fine-mesh sieve into saucepan, pressing hard on solids, then discarding them.
6. Whisk together yolks, granulated sugar, molasses, and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Return milk mixture to a boil and add half to yolk mixture in a slow stream, whisking until combined well. Add yolk mixture in a slow stream to milk in saucepan, whisking, then cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened and thermometer registers 170 to 175ºF (do not let boil).
7. Remove from heat and immediately stir in cream, then pour custard through fine-mesh sieve into a metal bowl. Quick-chill custard by setting bowl into a larger bowl of ice and cold water and stirring occasionally until cold, about 15 minutes. Freeze custard in ice cream maker until almost firm. Fold bread cubes into ice cream, then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to harden, at least 2 hours.
Suggestions: Eat ice cream within one week of making it.