Despite It All

For the first time in a very long while, I am planning to cook tonight. Way back in March I whined about being in a seemingly permanent state of stomach distress. I blamed all the desserts I’ve been making for the blog but, upon reflection, realized my symptoms started before Covid turned us all into bakers and nervous wrecks.

My sister reminded me of the Pepto Bismol bottles I’ve carried since I picked up a parasite while writing about a watermelon festival in Rush Springs, Oklahoma. Watermelon was innocent, the natural spring was not. The Wichita Indians cherished it right up until the 2nd Texas Calvary slaughtered 70 of them in what has been called one of the army’s most wrong-headed campaigns. What’s left of the spring now spurts from a pipe down the hill from the town’s cemetery. A small metal sign above the pipe reads: Trust in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy, 1 Tim. 67. Once diagnosed, I envisioned the parasite as my own little Alien who periodically would burst from my stomach.

I came to call him Lenny. I don’t know why.

Right through the parasite war and the resulting damage it left behind, I cooked and, with a few small adjustments in amounts of cheese and spices, ate with enjoyment. To do otherwise would have meant losing a small sense of myself. This is exactly what began to happen over the last eight months. If not for this blog, I probably would have stopped cooking sooner. That I didn’t probably contributed to the total body revolt last month. A major bout of depression soon followed.

But enough of all that! The family motto–“Buck up! Others have it worse! Everything is fine! fine! FINE!!!“–has come into play. Also it’s the husband’s birthday. He wishes veal scaloppini (the Italian-American breaded kind, not the classic Italian marsala or lemon sauced). The sons picked up beautiful slices and I bought $42 worth of excellent ice cream to make an ice cream cake. One of the three consulting doctors prescribed a medicine that seems to be helping and the closet full of over-the-counter remedies is on hand. I’ll cook and set the table. The family will gather (husband and I fully vaccinated, sons testing negative a few days before). The meal will go a long way to restore spirits and some equilibrium. And I will chant Everything is fine! fine! FINE!!!

Ice Cream Birthday Cake

The local market started stocking an ever expanding selection of handcrafted/hipster, weird flavored ice cream a month after lock down. Given that my neighborhood is no way near hipster-ish, this development says something about our collective need for very rich comfort food. Generally we stick to Turkey Hill or Friendly’s but the husband is worth a small dose of weird luxury, even though he won’t notice the difference and might be a little vexed I spent $42 on ice cream. Use a springform pan or, as I did here, a mixing bowl. The recipe will make about 12 servings, enough for a family of four to enjoy for days to come.

5 pints of different flavored ice creams

1 sponge cake or lady fingers to use for the base layer

If using a springform pan, very lightly oil the sides with an unflavored spray. If using a bowl, line completely with plastic wrap. Set aside.

Ten minutes or so before putting the cake together, take out the ice creams and set on the counter to soften. You want them to be just soft enough to spoon out. Any softer and the different flavors will melt into one another.

As you wait, form the bottom crust. If using a springform pan, cut medium thick slices of cake and place them across the bottom, being careful not to overlap. If using a bowl, you’ll form the crust later.

Working quickly, spoon in your first ice cream layer. Try to make it as even as possible. Keep adding the different flavors, one on top of the other. You may want to consider sprinkling some kind of crumbs in between layers to give the cake a little texture–think of the cake as a huge sundae. If using a bowl, stop adding ice cream about an inch below the top. Layer cake slices on top and fold the plastic wrap across it pretty tightly. Place the cake in the freezer for at least 4 hours. Overnight is better.

Right before you’re ready to serve, take the cake out. Remove the sides of the springform pan. For bowls, fill the sink with warm water until it comes half way up the side of the bowl. Careful not to let any water flow over the top, immerse for a few seconds. Place a serving dish over the bowl and invert. It should easily slide out. Remove plastic wrapping.

Pile on toppings. This is where your individual taste and creativity comes in. Common ones would be sprinkles; crumbled nuts, cookies or candy bars; syrups; jams; fruit; and, of course, whipped cream. You will think of many many more.

One very festive choice is to turn the cake into a baked Alaska. For this, make sure the cake is very frozen: Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Pipe or spoon meringue over the top and sides, forming tall peaks and valleys. Bake in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the peaks have a pleasing brown tinge.