Phyllis Grant is a former pastry chef, mother to Dash and Bella, author of the blog Dash and Bella, columnist at Food52, and writer of the forthcoming food memoir This Dinner Will Not Kill Them. Grant’s thoroughly personal reflections tell of cooking and parenting with refreshing wit and honesty, and remind us of the simple goodness of food and family life.
This morning I yelled at my son for refusing to put on his shoes, at my clean unfolded laundry for covering the couch, at the rats for reproducing and forcing me to kill their babies, at my daughter for taking 30 minutes to choose a pair of earrings, at the black mold in my bathroom, at my kids in the carpool drop-off line to hurry up and don’t forget your lunch please say thank you to the woman opening the door Bella don’t hit Dash even though he’s annoying. I thought I was done yelling. And then that new Taylor Swift song came on. So I yelled at Taylor as I drove to the grocery store.
No, Taylor, I really don’t feel 22. I have a cranky sacrum because something shifted down there during my second pregnancy. If I jump up too quickly to prevent my son from stepping out in front of a moving car, my right knee snaps like a rubber band, but I run through the pain because trust me, that’s just what you do. My brain is a bit shaky lately as in I never stop saying where are my glasses, where are my fucking keys, where’s that camp form, who stole my sunglasses. But here’s the good news, Taylor. I’ve started reading entire books again for the first time in 10 years, slurping up hundreds of pages just like I used to inhale the Esprit Catalog. Let’s talk about my breasts, Taylor. I think they would scare you. Last week my husband stared at them lovingly in the light of day and started singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot. I didn’t punch him, Taylor. I kissed him. Hard. Because he’s funny. And as he taught me, comedy ain’t pretty. I used to cry over episodes of ER. Now I cry while spying out the attic window on the all-grown-up tuxedoed neighbor boy, piling with his buddies into daddy’s minivan, smoothing down his hair, gearing up for the big prom night. Without missing a beat, I can answer questions like do people eat cow brains, what is a MILF, when is our dog dying, can we go to Disneyland this weekend. I actually say things like do as I say not as I do, don’t run with scissors, use your inside voice, if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all. I have this uncontrollable urge to watch my children sleep. I kiss kiss kiss them until they’re awake enough to say I love you back. On a daily basis I hear how much I’m hated, how I never say yes, how I’m the meanest person on the planet. I haven’t breastfed in almost five years but an expression of love, via a kid’s hand on my heart, or a word uttered at just the right moment, or a glance smile sigh, will make my milk let down. My weekends are no longer mine. I will never ever sleep through the night again. But if people are telling me the truth, this phase will be over in a flash and I will be left with that quiet house I currently crave so much and an obsessive lifelong desire for my kids to come home please come home as often as you want please come home. So when I need a break or a breath or a boost or a shift, I make some ice cream. The great neutralizer. I think you might like my strawberry ice cream, Taylor. I would love to serve you some on my back porch. And then we can listen to The Cure and dance around the kitchen with hairbrushes as microphones and be hella carefree. Much to my kids’ horror, I do this on a regular basis. I don’t know about you, Taylor, but I feel 43.
2/3 cup sugar
Stem and thinly slice strawberries. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Add vanilla bean pod and seeds. Stir. Set aside for most of the day. Stir every hour or so. Once the berries have spewed out their vibrant red juice, refrigerate for a few days (careful, it will mold fast due to minimal sugar) or freeze it for a few months.Directions (ice cream custard):
Set up an ice bath for the ice cream base. Add a few cups of ice to a large bowl. Put a smaller bowl in the larger bowl. Place a fine strainer on top of the small bowl. Set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together half and half, sugar, yolks, and salt. Set aside.
Place heavy cream in a medium-sized saucepan. Turn to medium heat. Bring to just under the boil. Turn off heat. Slowly whisk hot cream into half and half/yolk/sugar mixture. Pour mixture back in pot and place on low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon. Do not leave the custard even for a moment. Stir the whole time or you will have some scrambled eggs on the bottom. It will slowly thicken. It’s done when you drag a finger across the back of the spoon and it leaves a lingering trail that doesn’t close in on itself.
Pour custard through the strainer and into the smaller bowl. Add water to the ice until it rises to the level of the custard. When custard is cool, cover and place in the fridge overnight.
Place a serving container for the ice cream in the freezer. Mix together cold custard with one cup of cold strawberry sauce (juice and chunks; vanilla pod removed). Churn in your ice cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze for a few hours before serving.
Phyllis Grant portrait by Isabel Ross.
All other images courtesy of Phyllis Grant.