I’ve had a strange and specific craving over the last few weeks, and I don’t know how to fulfill it. When I was a child, Neapolitan ice cream came in a carton, arranged in order to worthiness: the slightly chalky chocolate, the sweet-but-not-too-flavorful vanilla, the heavenly artificiality of the strawberry. The colors of the pastel brick informed my dress sense on at least one occasion. As adults, we put away childish things in favor of stunningly overpriced pints of gelato and trays of mochi. We discover that chocolate ice cream shouldn’t require chocolate syrup, that vanilla isn’t bland, that strawberry ice cream with real strawberries in the mix is divine. If we’re really ambitious, we move on to making our own ice cream, free of the gums and stabilizers that plague commercial products.
But what if, even as we load up on ripe peaches and raw cream or plan trips to the one store that stocks Jeni’s, we want something a little less adult, a little less natural, and a lot more nostalgic? Well, we elbow the mochi out of the way and pick up a carton of store brand Neapolitan. Opening it up brings disappointment–the chocolate and vanilla are as under-flavored as ever, but what have they done to my strawberry, the flavor that once bore only a tangential resemblance to the fruit? Biting into what I assume is a real strawberry shrouded in ice crystals, I am disappointed. The pop of fake flavor that ruled my childhood has been replaced by a dull scrap of reality. They were pretty stingy when they put the strawberries in (this food is terrible and the portions are too small!!), and the ice cream is fairly indistinguishable from the Breyer’s strawberry flavor I wouldn’t bring home if it was the last product on the shelves.
One of the sad truths of adulthood is that real strawberry ice cream is almost impossible to make. The high water content of the berry means you’ll be chewing squishy ice, you have to use the best and most flavorful berries (none of those giant berries they sell you at Publix in June–Floridians need to head to a U Pick It in February or March), and cooking the berries into a sort of coulis loses the fresh strawberry flavor that really makes the experience. These problems are not unique to home cooks, but are experienced by small stands and big chains alike. So it’s no wonder that food manufacturers of the late 20th century gave up entirely on the idea in favor of creamy, delicious, not-at-all-authentic strawberry flavor.
It’s probably just as well. None of the junk foods that were beloved and rare in our house growing up taste as good as an adult. Better not chase down the ice cream man, I couldn’t bear to know what Powerpuff Girls ice cream pops really taste like.
Now for some cozy things I liked today:
Cooking video of the day: 3 Grilled Pizza Recipes
Long read of the day: A heartbreaking account of two Japanese men who learned to dive–so they could find their loved ones, who went missing after the tsunami
Interior of the day:
A mudroom as part of a larger space usually looks unattractive in practice, but it’s lovely here. Source