This morning when I went to scoop Bee out of her crib, I saw some strange bits on her sheet that looked like ratty old foam stuffing. I spent a moment wondering which toy she had managed to pull apart before I realized that she had thrown up in the middle of the night! She made it past the constantly spitting up stage ages ago now, so I was quite surprised. She hadn't made a peep and didn't seem bothered at all. I fed her breakfast, gave her a bath, rinsed and soaked everything dirty, and got on with the day. It went smoothly until dinner, when Bee took a bite of grilled cheese, worked on it for a while...and then threw up again all over herself and the table. Andrew and I looked at each other, each of us, I thought, expecting the other to have some kind of ideal parental response to this moment. All we could do, though, was bathe her again, offer some benign unseasoned sweet potato (rejected), and tuck her in after her book and her song.
I am telling this story because something about washing up in the morning and then again at night made me feel more legitimately motherly than I often do, as if I was finally earning my title (or perhaps just a new mothering merit badge--vomit management level 1).
Even on the days when all our effluences stay where they're supposed to, there's just an endless amount of tidying and cleaning to do. I don't even come close to keeping up with it. I love the Ahlbergs' Peek-A-Boo! in part because it shows all the tasks that have to happen around baby and his sisters to keep their lovably disorderly house from spinning completely out of control. I sometimes feel especially gratified that it takes three adults--mother, father, and grandmother--to bear that load, but then I remind myself that they have some tasks I do not--toting in coal, washing windows (ha!), ironing. I almost always notice some new detail in this book's pictures. When we read Goodnight Moon, my suppressed inner student is forever spinning absurd theories about its narrative technique and the weighty implications of what is included and what excluded. But when we read anything by the Ahlbergs, I am just looking and smiling. And wishing I could draw.
But about that untidy house. Last week I wanted to make chili chocolate ice cream from a recipe I developed and then scribbled on a Barneys receipt in 2006. This receipt has since made its home in Chez Panisse Desserts, falling reproachfully at my feet whenever I pick the book up to make something else ("just store me on the computer already!"). I have known exactly where it was for several years...and then last week, when I needed it, it was not in the book. Nor was it in the charlotte mold that sits next to my computer gathering scraps of paper that really should be dealt with. So I winged it, making something okay but not great.
You know when I found it, don't you? The next day. It was in the pocket at the back of my calendar, where I had tucked it for safekeeping this fall. It is very easy to see myself as an Ahlberg character, rifling through my paper-stuffed charlotte mold, about to knock over a stack of books, my good cheer sustained by a mug of tea and a scone that is, no doubt, leaving a trail of crumbs behind me, while the child reading my book claps and laughs and sees that the recipe is poking out of my calendar.
So, 3.5 years after I made it up (and, apparently, was talked into seldom-worn eye makeup by Violet of Barneys), here is chili chocolate ice cream:
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 cups cream
- 2 cups milk (2% or whole)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 dried red chiles
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 egg yolks
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 2 tablespoons butter
I made no note of my technique, but I'm guessing that you warm all the ingredients up to but not including egg yolks in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Cover and allow the milky mixture to steep for at least 30 minutes or until the milk tastes pleasantly sweet and spicy. Meantime, melt together the chocolate and butter. When the milky mixture tastes right, remove the chiles and cinnamon stick and whisk a splash of the liquid into the egg yolks. Pour the yolks into the saucepan of spiced milk and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard coats the spoon. Off heat, whisk in the melted chocolate. Chill thoroughly, preferably overnight, before freezing in your ice cream maker.
(This time I added some vanilla and cardamom, and I think the vanilla was overwhelming. A smaller splash would have been fine.)
*UPDATE* WRT being a mother...Today Design Mom posted a lovely video by Katherine Center (who, fun fact, went to my school in Houston). I don't know what Mom 2.0 is, but you should click through to the short video if you want to get happily weepy (or weepily happy?).