I didn’t scream when she told me. I didn’t even cry. I just put my fingers on the paper next to hers, and repeated what she’d just said: “Gluten, eggs, and soy.” Compared to the previous six weeks, those three foods seemed easy enough to avoid. After all, I’d be able to eat cheese, and fruit, and rice, and ohgoodlord, I might once again drink coffee. Slowly, I’ll be able to reintroduce things like beef, pork, chocolate, and corn . . . people, things are looking up.
It’s been two weeks now since my ayurvedic practitioner told me about my new allergies. Are they real allergies? I can’t be certain. I’ve spoken with a rheumatologist, a nephrologist, an acupuncturist, and numerous doctor pals about the results, and no one agrees what method of allergy testing is most reliable. But I do know one thing: avoiding them is worth a try. So for the past two weeks, I’ve been hitching up my britches and eating differently.
I’m not sure I’d have been quite so accepting if someone told me I was allergic to dairy. That might have killed me. But the day I came home from that appointment, when someone told me I’d need to change the way I eat not just for a few weeks, but for a lifetime, I plunked myself down on one of our tall wicker stools and started attacking a two-pound block of cheddar cheese. I didn’t care that the cutting board was a little dirty, or that the paring knife I’d grabbed haphazardly was so small that its hilt smeared through the cheese, leaving waxy streaks on my index finger’s middle knuckle. I took three jagged slices onto the porch, turned my face to the sun, and ate.
And since then, despite a trip that solidified my fear that in the future, it will be markedly less delicious to travel if I can’t be in charge of my own eating decisions (let’s just say luxury doesn’t always equal gustatory indulgence), I’ve been excited. I’ve been excited because there’s a possibility that I’ve hit on something that could make me healthier in the long term, and because I’ve tried new-to-me (and suddenly favorite) foods like socca, and because although I never knew it before, I’ve learned that ice cream can taste really, really good without eggs.
Last week, on my way to The Greenbrier Symposium for Professional Food Writers, in West Virginia, I made a pit stop in Columbus, Ohio. No lies, now; I wasn’t any more thrilled to land at CMH than you might be. But people, I’m telling you, there is an ice cream revolution there that I’d somehow missed. I knew folks had been swooning over Jeni Britton Bauer’s ice cream cookbook, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home but a) I didn’t know she was from Columbus and b) I didn’t know she skips the eggs, relying instead on a joint process involving reducing cream and adding a bit of cream cheese to produce sensationally silky, rich ice cream.
But Faith told me all this. (Thank goodness for Faith.) And the moment she was done feeding me Vij’s mustard seed-spiked cabbage and tender grilled chicken thighs and socca (there it is again!) smeared with goat cheese, she whisked me to her favorite Jeni’s location, where I melted under the pleasure of my first dessert in six weeks.
I ordered the book, of course. It hasn’t come yet, and I’m not a terribly patient person. So yesterday, I swirled up my own version—a cinnamon- and honey-spiked combination of Greek yogurt, reduced heavy cream, and cream cheese. It tastes like a batch of cream cheese frosting might taste if it tripped over the cinnamon and felt into a churning batch of rich frozen yogurt. It also tastes to me, in the dying evening light, like this new lifestyle-o-mine could be extremely delicious.
Honey-Cinnamon Cream Cheese Ice Cream (PDF)
This sweet treat was inspired by a stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Columbus, Ohio, where owner (and author of the cookbook Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home) Jeni Britton Bauer uses cream cheese to make her ice cream smooth and scoopable. Although hers only have the slightest hint of tang, this version, which is egg-free (like many of hers), puts the cream cheese flavor front and center. Dollop some on top of carrot cake, in place of cream cheese frosting, or on a simple fruit tart, or drizzle it with salted caramel—but know that it’s rich, so a little goes a long way.
Note: The ice cream base must be refrigerated before freezing, so it’s best to make it the night before you plan to serve it.
Time: 20 minutes active time
Makes: 1 scant quart
1 pint (2 cups) heavy cream
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon good-quality honey
1 cup (8 ounces) plain (whole-fat) Greek-style yogurt
1 cup (8 ounces) regular cream cheese
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat. Cook at a strong simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the cream has reduced by half, to 1 cup. (Watch it closely and adjust the heat to prevent it from bubbling over.) Stir in the honey and set aside.
Whirl together the yogurt, cream cheese, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla in a food processor until smooth. Add the warm honeyed cream, and blend again to combine. Taste for seasoning; add more honey or cinnamon, if desired.
Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight, or until thoroughly chilled.
The next day, freeze the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the ice cream to a freezer-proof container and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours, before serving.