The unique satisfaction of cranking your own ice cream.
One evening last week, I heard an odd scraping noise. I glanced around the room looking for the source, and I finally caught sight of a spoon in my hand pushing against the bottom of an ice cream carton.
I’d just eaten an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
I’ve been a glutton for sweets all my life, but I don’t think I’d ever done that before. Had my boyfriend just dumped me? Was my little sister getting married before me? What the hell?
This was especially ridiculous because, in an attempt to save some money and lose some excess toes, I’ve been keeping the temperature of my apartment as low as I can stand. Somehow, though my fingers ached with cold, I’d lost track of myself and transferred the entire contents of a carton of frozen dairy product to the inside of my stomach.
Even worse, I didn’t feel all that full or sluggish afterwards. My only negative feelings came from the withering reproofs of my superego.
I should mention that the flavor in question was Chubby Hubby. In case you’re unfamiliar, Chubby Hubby is “Fudge Covered Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels in Vanilla Malt Ice Cream with Fudge & Peanut Butter.” Isn’t that just astounding? It’s like someone wrote the names of everything that’s right and good in the world on a corkboard and just started tossin’ darts.
If I’m going to have a heart attack then freeze to death on my floor, there are worse ways to go about it.
• • •
One fateful day in the early '90s, I was bored in that luxurious way college kids home for summer are bored. Poking around the Kitchen Appliance Graveyard in my parents’ basement, I came upon a Donvier ice cream maker.
I remembered being dimly aware of its existence, but I didn’t recall ever eating ice cream from it. In fact, the only homemade ice cream I could remember having was at a block party when I was in grade school. There was a lot of ice and salt and physical exertion involved, and for some reason small children had to take turns standing on the machine to get it to function properly.
But my parents’ Donvier didn’t need ice or salt. It had an ingenious metal cylinder that you froze overnight, sidestepping that mess. You cranked it by hand, but you didn’t have to turn it constantly – just a few cranks every few minutes.
This is the way ice cream happens: you gradually freeze a mixture of milk, cream, sugar, and eggs, while gently churning it to infuse it with air and keep it from becoming a block of ice. As the liquid touching the Donvier’s inner cylinder freezes, the rotating blades scrape it away, allowing another layer of liquid to take its place. And so on, until the whole batch is a bucket of creamy, frosty happiness.
The first batch of ice cream I ever made was strawberry. I’d never liked strawberry ice cream – it gave me a headache – but that was one of the recipes in the little pamphlet that came with the machine, and we happened to have a box of strawberries in the refrigerator, so I gave it a shot.
It was startling. Very fresh and sweet. For the first time, I saw why the flavor existed.
The rest of that summer, I cranked out ice cream with the zealotry of the recent convert. I bought a book of recipes and began taking flavors to parties. It became my signature dessert.
This made me aware of the bewildering popularity of mint chocolate chip. It’s a fine flavor – I wouldn’t kick it out of a waffle cone – but does it really deserve more requests than any other option?
I preferred exploring more and more exotic experiments. Mastering chocolate peanut butter gave me the confidence to try cappuccino, which led to coconut chocolate chip. But even something as vanilla as, well, vanilla tastes fantastic when freshly homemade, especially when blended with some Baileys into a frozen adult beverage.
• • •
I still have that Donvier today. I even picked up an extra cylinder several years ago at a garage sale, so I can make two flavors at once. They’re both in my freezer, waiting for summer.
One thing I have not tried to make is Chubby Hubby. I think some part of me sees that flavor as the forbidden realm where mortals are not meant to intrude. I don’t want the sun to melt my vanilla malt wings.
But every time I open the lid of my garbage can and see the empty pint upbraiding me for my sins, I think, what have I got to lose?
The Banquet of Life is a bi-weekly look at one man's life through the food he eats.