The day after college graduation – the middle of the night, actually – my boyfriend and I packed up our dorm room, our then everything, loaded my car and drove to Atlanta to begin our adult lives together. We were a couple through most of college, lived in and backpacked throughout Mexico, traveled to Philadelphia to protest in support of Mumia Abu Jamal, to Cleveland to protest against the Contract With America, to anywhere we could see De La Soul, The Roots, Poor Righteous Teachers, and the like. We journeyed.
After about a year or so in Atlanta, we were pretty settled into our new post-college, kind of grown up lives. We lived in a sweet, little duplex, got a kitten we named Milo, and a plant or two. We had lots of good friends, and his family; a network. I worked in a so, so cool video store, and his DJing was picking up traction. We had the perfect, fun, action-packed and inspired early-twenties life.
But, as inevitably happens with couples after a certain point, a sort of malaise set in. I remember about a half mile from our house, on the main street to get anywhere, there was a big pothole. For some reason (and this could be a memory revision thing), if he was driving, though there were two lanes, he always seemed to hit the damn thing. And in my little sports car, so low to the ground, it made an impact. A boom. This completely unnerved me. And we would have a little moment of bickering. And then after a while the bickering stopped, but each time, right when he hit the pothole (because he really did just keep hitting it!), I would stare straight ahead and in a deadpan voice (think Steven Wright) say, “BOOM.”
Looking back I think that was when I, and perhaps both of us, felt it was the beginning of the end.
Since then in my romantic relationships, after awhile, I found that I would look for, expect, The Boom. Sometimes it would be the very thing that initially endeared me, the idiosyncrasy; a consistently mispronounced word or phrase, the way he chewed his food, how similar we were, how completely opposite we were, how much he adored me or how hard it was to make him adore me, or even a particularly singular B.O. that maybe everyone would not love so much. Inevitably, that thing would be the very thing that became The Boom. I would not, could not, take it if he said that word incorrectly again. How could he possibly chew his food like that? He loves me too much. He'll never love me enough. He stinks. We're just too alike. We are way too different. Why does he keep hitting the damn pothole?!
And then one day, I realized that everybody has their foibles. Hell, myself more than most. It was an AHA moment of the non-Take-On-Me variety: the trick is getting beyond The Boom. I'm not one for exercise (and maybe that's why it's taken me so long to figure this out), but to run a marathon one must push past the cramp. To climb a mountain, or even just a hill, one must get through the generally more difficult up part prior to reaching the plateau, and then the generally much easier down part. Maybe, after a certain point, those very quirks that charmed and then agitated don't necessarily do either anymore. They are simply part of everything. Which, in an existential way, is soothing. Comforting. Because, lest we forget, wherever you go, there you are. Hopefully together.
But I know we all have to go through our youth, sow an oat or two, run around the block a few times before we can run a marathon. I don't regret many of the things in my rear view mirror but I realize the road I'm on, and the one that lay ahead still has many potholes. What I know now is that I, we, will continue driving. From now on I must get beyond The Boom.
Since my early days with Fred he has shown a propensity for cooking. He meticulously follows recipes and techniques to the T. The first meal he ever prepared for me was Cacio e Pepe. When I arrived at his apartment, he was in the kitchen frantically working in that reserved pasta water to the sauce as instructed by YouTube video. It made me think of a housewife working alongside Julia Child on PBS to make the perfect omelet. He's an instruction manual kind of guy. He always uses a timer.
But, almost always, Fred's kitchen adventures yield perfect technique and perfect dishes. Fortunately for me, ever since I became too pregnant to cook and, then, post baby-having too tired to cook, Fred has essentially become the Chef de Family. He has mastered the grill, mastered the salmon, mastered the herbed rice, the protein bowl, mastered most applications of the egg, from olive oil fried, to poached, to soft boiled, to the more-difficult-than-it-looks, omelet.
One of the things he mastered pretty early on in our relationship was ice cream. I've catalogued quite a few of his ice cream adventures here through the years. People flip out over Fred's ice cream – have told him to sell it, to teach classes on how to make it. And it's not just his technique which is very much inspired by the French: very rich, creamy, almost like a silky custard. But Fred also strives to develop exciting flavor combinations and textures.
I remember our first date well. I crushed on Fred instantaneously. I loved that he rocked a pocket square and thought that it was super adorable that he used the word pragmatic like a hundred times in one sitting, mostly extraneously. And now. Now we have been together for almost four years, have moved across the country and have a baby. We bicker. Probably more than we should, actually. But I'll tell you this: even though now I roll my eyes (on the inside) whenever pragmatic pops out of his mouth unnecessarily (or at all), I remember how cute it was that night. I recall Cacio e Pepe to YouTube, the song he wrote for me on our first Valentine's Day, about his downright terrible jokes that I pretend are dumb but really make me laugh. I think about our baby and what an incredible father he is and will always be.
I know, pragmatically, that I will push past The Boom. Because now I know, what's just on the other side is poetry.
And so is this ice cream.
Rosewater Saffron Ice Cream with Pistachios
Makes approximately 1 quart
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
5 egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon
1 cup roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped plus 1/4 cup for topping
¼ teaspoon loosely packed saffron threads
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Tablespoons rosewater
A pinch of salt
Grind 1 tablespoon of sugar and saffron to a powder in mortar and pestle.
Heat milk, cream, sugar, pistachios and saffron-sugar powder in a heavy bottom sauce pan to just under a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk together egg yolks in a metal bowl. Temper yolks by very slowly adding 1 cup of the hot milk mixture, whisking the eggs constantly to prevent from cooking.
Once incorporated, add back to milk mixture and heat on low – still stirring constantly – until it coats the back of wooden spoon and running a path through with your finger doesn't run.
Strain custard into stainless steel bowl, reserving 1/3 cup pistachios, and cool over ice bath.
When the custard has chilled, mix in the rosewater and reserved pistachios and prepare according to your ice cream maker's instructions.
Top with chopped pistachios and serve.
One year ago: Janie's Summer Harvest
Two years ago: Double-Dipped Buttermilk & Chile Vinegar Fried Chicken
Three years ago: Fresh Mint & Chip Ice Cream
Four years ago: Yerp: Part 1
Five years ago: Strawberry, Mint & Chantilly Cream with Cornmeal Shortcakes
Six years ago: The Hall at Palihouse