Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Phase of Nuns and Truckers

Someone asked me several weeks ago what the younger-me dreamt of becoming when all grown up. I thought as far back as I could and remembered all the strange phases and obsessions of little Tania. I was able to think back to the time when I was 8 years old.

I am the middle one of three sisters. We call ourselves the BalasSisters ("bala" being the first few letters of our last name). Eight year old Tania was a little lost (as most 8 year old little "Tanias" are). I wasn't sure who I was or what I was. All I knew was that I was the younger sister of the confident, popular and beautiful red-headed T1 and the older sister of the adorable, giggly baby of the family T3. I was T2, the tomboy who wore big round glasses that could have easily been mistaken for my grandmother's glasses and who was no stranger to a pint of ice cream or a box of cookies. I was the one with the hair always parted in the middle and tied back so tightly that somehow it earned the nickname of "nun-like hairstyle" (we speak Armenian at home so this nickname loses something in translation. You get the idea though).

I had two nicknames oh-so-gracefully bestowed upon me around that age: thanks to my hairstyle, I was either "nun-like" or thanks to my general shape and demeanor, I was "trucker". Now, for a brief moment, think about both my nicknames and try to picture a chubby nun-like trucker with big round glasses with gold and auburn trim. Do you have an image in your head? I bet that image is pretty hilarious. Well, that was me.

As mentioned, during my nun-truck years, I wasn't exactly sure what this whole ''being a human'' and "developing your entity" thing was about so, because I did not know who Tania was and what Tania liked, I thought to myself ''If I can't be Tania, then I'll be someone else.''

At 8 years old, I had seen the movie "Harriet the Spy" starring the pre-Buffy and pre-Gossip Girl Michelle Trachtenberg. I remember watching the movie and thinking ''this girl looks like fun. Let's be her!'' Like me, her hair was always parted in the middle and tied back (though not as tightly and slightly less nun-ish). We had similar hair and that was enough for me to think that I could be Harriet. 

Harriet with her perfectly parted hair and notebook

I cannot remember anything about the movie besides the fact that the main character, Harriet, was a young spy (the title must have given that one away!), the fact that there was a reference to horseback riding in the movie, and Harriet's aspirations to be a writer or a (horseback) rider. At the time, Trucker Tania had not understood if Harriet had said she wanted to be a writer or a rider so, because I had not understood (and because I wanted to be Harriet), I decided that I would be both. I quickly abandoned the rider idea though when I realized that just the thought of getting on a horse made me tremble with fear and horror. I had had a rather ''traumatic'' incident (traumatic for me but hilarious for my family) when I was five and thought that a horse was going to eat my foot while I was on its back. To this day, I have a slight fear of riding horses. A few years ago, I bravely rode a mule in the woods of the Dominican Republic. Going up and down steep, muddy and slippery narrow pathways seemed to have kicked most of the fear out of me though.

In order to truly be Tania the Spy, I needed to get a notebook like Harriet's. I got one and filled a few pages with doodles. I don't recall having any Harriet-esque adventures though. I retired my imaginary spy cap a few months later. It had not taken too long until it was time to ''switch entities'' and become the 6th Spice Girl. 

That's a story for another day...
As mentioned, I was no stranger to a pint of ice cream (and I'm still no stranger though I try to consume more consciously). 

I recently made a tasty batch of vanilla ice cream; an ice cream that could put the Dairy Queens of this world to shame! Now this ice cream is serious stuff; rich, creamy and amazingly decadent. You haven't had real ice cream until you have had homemade ice cream!

Vanilla Ice Cream

- 1.5 cup full fat milk
- 2.5 cups heavy cream
- 8 large egg yolks
- 1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract (or 1 rounded spoon of vanilla paste)

- Put the milk and the heavy cream in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat while stirring occasionally. Once it simmers, remove from heat, add vanilla and put aside.
- In a big mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks until they are light yellow in color. 

- Gradually add the granulated sugar while whisking. Once all the sugar is added, slowly add the milk/cream mixture while whisking continuously (to not get scrambled eggs!).

- Once all the milk/cream is added, transfer the whole mixture back to the saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring frequently.

- Continue to cook this mixture, stirring, until it thickens and reaches a temperature of about 170-175F. The mixture should coat the back of a spoon.

- Once it has thickened, pour this custard in a shallow bowl and let it cool on your counter top. Once it has cooled a little, put it in the fridge to cool some more for about 6-8 hours. 

- If you have an ice cream machine, pour the now cool mixture in the machine and let it churn for about 30 minutes. If you do not have an ice cream machine, put your shallow dish in the freezer. Let the mixture chill in the freezer and stir the ice cream around every hour or so as to not allow it to form little ice crystals. (If by chance you do have little ice crystals, then say you made an ice cream-faux granita hybrid! It will still taste divine!)