May 25, 2011
It’s so close to summer. I know this because, for several days now, I have been dreaming of it—vivid, cinematic dreams with supporting casts and happy endings. My dreams feature long, easy days of cooking, loose and floppy bread starters blooming in my fridge, jellies and jams and pickles and platters of things being carried out to the grill, pitchers and bottles of very cold drinks. Reading books in a chair all day. Dancing on a hotel rooftop with a view of the Mississippi the night my friend Kristen gets married. Reading books with my sweet godsons, who have somehow managed to become five years old. Eating ribs in my hometown. Writing, planning, scheming, letter-writing, ice-creaming.
Oh yes, the ICE CREAM. There is going to be ice cream all summer, and other frozen, fruity-or-creamy things—ice cold watermelon all down my arms and legs, cold almond puddings with warm, boozy cherries, every kind of popsicle I can think to make, mango sorbet and pistachio kulfi and cups of falooda, the strange, rose-water drenched treat of my childhood.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For now I am just sitting here dreaming about these things because I have bronchitis, and I’m not good for much at the moment. Yeahhhh, bronchitis. Have you had bronchitis before? I hadn’t. It kind of sucks. There are a LOT of things that suck worse, though. I know that. I promise you, I keep that in mind.
If my bronchitis is the bad news, then the good news that comes with it is…Jill is cancer free! That is what the doctors told us last week, when we went to the hospital for her surgery-follow-up appointments. They said—“We think we got it.” They said—“No further treatment necessary.” They said—“No appointments for six months.”
We were, at first, in shock. We went to our favorite near-the-hospital lunch spot and ordered our favorite big bowls of shoyu ramen, only to realize we wouldn’t be back the next week, doing the same thing. Over the days that followed, there were celebratory emails and tweets, the clinking of beer bottles over a table of homemade hamburgers, an actual date involving dinner reservations and concert tickets (and the Avett Brothers making me cry, in a good way), and lots of wonder and the melting-away-shock that we might could start imagining a future without hospitals and external IV lines and chemotherapy in it.
Jill has written, rather eloquently if I may say so, about how cancer has changed her. Of course, it has changed both of us, and it has changed us, deepening our trust and intimacy, making pretty much everything even more precious than it used to be. Also? Given Jill’s newfound emotional sensitivity and the fact that I’ve always been a serious crier, it’s almost funny how much tearing up is happening in our household these days (Google Chrome commercials? You’re killing us.) Ans now we’re trying to figure out how to re-enter “normal life” without abandoning the crystallizing, tenderizing effects of this unexpected adventure.
When things were their worst—when Jill was her sickest, and I was my most exhausted and both of us were asking ourselves “How do people do this?”—there were things I knew for certain. What was important, and what wasn’t. What was worth spending time, and energy, and money on, and what wasn’t.
I guess what I’d like to say is that I want to have the balls to care about the right stuff, even when cancer isn’t lurking in the background. I want to be a brave woman whose priorities are clear, and clearly reflected in her life. So I will be adding that to my summer project list, along with “make lots of ice cream.”
FIVE-INGREDIENT STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM
You don’t need me to tell you this is good, do you? And that you should use the prettiest strawberries you can find, and thick, glorious, local heavy cream? No, I didn’t think so.
I prefer this particular ice cream soft-serve, meaning eaten right when it’s churned or shortly thereafter. If you keep some in your freezer for a few days (as you can), I highly recommend using it to make milkshakes.
1 lb. strawberries, washed, hulled, & halved
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Mash the strawberries with the sugar, lemon juice, & salt in the bottom of a plastic container with a lid. Let the mixture stand, shaking it occasionally, for about 10 minutes.
Here’s where you get to make choices—if you want smooth, perfectly pink strawberry ice cream, pour all of the strawberry mixture into the blender and puree with the heavy cream. If, like me, you want some chunks of strawberry for texture, reserve up to half of the strawberry mixture and pour the rest into the blender and puree with the cream.
Pour everything back into the plastic container, seal with the lid, and chill in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours. Take the container out every once in a while and shake it up.
Once you’re ready, freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. Yields about a quart-and-a-half.