My mother turned 84 years old this week. I engineered a modest celebration, which involved, among other things, a great deal of ice cream.
As I’ve mentioned here before, my mother is a cancer survivor, and an object lesson in elegance and courage. She dresses beautifully, cooks exquisite food for family and friends (she’s cooking up her retro turkey a la king for me as we speak) and makes three generations of family members feel individually loved.
Ice cream is a metonym of her life: the part that stands in for the whole.
As a result of the cancer she doesn’t have a larynx. She had to relearn eating and speaking. Imagine not being able to swallow: the food goes down by gravity and force of will. A skilled cook and life-long gourmand, my ma had to adjust to foods smooth enough to go through her narrowed-down esophagus.
Mostly, she eats pureed soups and cooked cereals.
And ice cream.
She can’t get enough of it. I imagine it feels smooth and glamorous and glittery as it slides down. I imagine its pleasures expand in the face of physical limitation.
Which is why I got her an ice-cream-maker for Christmas. Together, we made eggnog ice cream on Christmas day, and ate it the next, her birthday. That ice cream trumped the gifts, the salmon bisque, and the sparkling wine.
I watched and learned, as she inhabited the present moment: savouring a single moment, and letting it fill her with delight.
Egg Nog Ice Cream
5 egg yolks
1/2 pint (250ml) fresh milk
3/4 pint (375ml) double/heavy cream
4 oz (100g) sugar or caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or according to taste)
1 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
2 tablespoons dark rum
2 tablespoons brandy
Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring the pan slowly up to boiling point.
In a bowl, beat and mix together the egg yolks and sugar until thick. Pour the milk into the mixture of egg yolks and sugar whilst stirring.
Pour the mixture back into the pan and heat gently, stirring until the custard thickens – DO NOT BRING TO THE BOIL OR IT WILL PROBABLY CURDLE. When you can see a film form over the back of your spoon it’s time to remove the saucepan from the heat. Leave to cool.
When fully cooled, stir in the cream, vanilla extract, brandy, rum and grated nutmeg.
Transfer the complete mixture in an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.