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To Have it All

We all want for things. Whether you care to admit it or not, it could be an actual possession like a new pair of jeans or an espresso machine or it could be for someone to swoop in and pay off your credit card bills or your student loan payment. Perhaps it’s a much-deserved vacation with your sweetheart or having Labor Day off from work. More time to work-out and write letters or organize the garage. Maybe we wish for warmer summer evenings … or cooler summer evenings. But this week I met a pretty wonderful woman who assured me she has it all. She wants for nothing.

I still work at Heath Ceramics one day a week and have been balancing it nicely with Marge and a few writing projects. The people are amazing, an occasional drive down to foggy Sausalito is always welcome, and I actually enjoy chatting with customers and meeting new people. Last week, I approached an older woman in a wheelchair and started talking to her about the weather  and her day — basic small talk. She told me her name was Beatrice but wanted me to call her Bee. She asked if I had children and told me she liked my earrings. Eventually we got to talking about dinnerware and she mentioned that she’d had her Heath collection since the 1960′s (we hear this a lot). I asked her what other pieces she might need to fill in or round out what she already had at home. Now Bee was probably in her late 80′s or early 90′s. She looked at me for the longest time and then slowly smiled, telling me she had it all.

While I initially thought she was referring to the entire store (we get our fair share of customers who come in and literally do own the majority of the store), what she meant was that she had everything she needed. At this point, she was giving things away to her kids and grand-kids. She told me that you get to a certain point in life where things don’t matter anymore and you don’t necessarily care to surround yourself with more of them, but with people instead. She’d loved to cook years ago; her husband Alfred approached and assured me she was an amazing cook. He missed her cooking. But now, the two explained, it’s all about time. Time that they realize they don’t have a lot of. They’d rather have someone cook for them and leave more room in the day to be out in the garden, read, talk with each other, and be around people they love.

Much like Bee and Alfred, my grandparents began the process of making more room in their days a few years ago. They started clearing out their barn in Upstate New York and even some rooms in the main house, too. I remember about a year ago, we were told to think of things that we wanted from the house, and I just couldn’t do it or make that kind of request. It seemed odd and slightly morbid. I did ask for one of the Russian dolls my grandma always kept at the end of the hallway leading to the blue bedroom. As kids, we’d spend what must’ve been hours taking them apart and admiring the little village of wooden women you could create — all from one original doll. It was magical. But now after seeing my mom and aunts spend time organizing files and papers, box things up to donate, and tackle the yard and the garden, I get it more and more. It’s not so much morbid, it’s just clearing the way for new kinds of days. More spacious days.

vintage cookbooks
Over the July 4th holiday, my grandpa brought up a big box of old cookbooks that he’s been encouraging my grandma to get rid of. He let us choose some that we’d like to take back with the understanding that he wasn’t taking any back home. While they probably haven’t looked through the cookbooks in over a decade, I’ve been unable to put them down. They’re a portrait of a certain time period, a certain type of cook, and a way in which women used to organize the kitchen and the pantry. And there are actually some pretty great recipes that I’m going to make for you / with you here. So that’s something we can look forward to in the coming weeks. That and ice cream.

So this ice cream recipe? We’ve talked ice cream a few times before: we’ve chatted Strawberry Ice Cream and whipped up a classic Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. This week I wanted to make a really rich, special ice cream that used just a few ingredients. While I love summer fruit, I’ve had my fair share of peaches and sweet berries lately. And I’ll admit to testing some new cookie recipes in the kitchen for Marge and helping the lovely new Danish bakers test their new lemon tarts. So when you’ve had just a little too much or when you have just enough, rest assured that you can mix together a few egg yolks, a little milk and some crème fraiche and it’ll always result in a dense, slightly tart ice cream that satisfies in just the right way.  To share. Or not to share. You decide.

creme fraiche ice cream
As we admit to ourselves the things we want for (justified or not), we can also acknowledge that there’s a thread that weaves through the fabric of each day, I think. For my grandparents, Alred and Bee, and me and you– I’m willing to bet it’s time well spent with people you love. Sure, new jeans are nice. Time off is nice. Having a fairy godmother come in and pay off your American Express bill each month would be really nice.  But when it comes down to it, I just want to have days on end with people I get a kick out of.

Crème Fraiche Ice Cream with Roasted Honeyed Figs
This recipe is slightly adapted from ice cream genius, David Lebovitz. I add a little vanilla to his recipe, and I think a bit of orange zest would be really nice, too. If you don’t want to buy crème fraiche,  combine 2 cups heavy cream with 1/4 cup buttermilk and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours, until thick. I had some leftover figs from the farmers market and decided to roast them with a little honey. The sweetness of the honeyed figs balances beautifully with the subtle tartness of the crème friache ice cream.

Ingredients:
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
2 cups crème fraîche
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:
Set a mesh strainer over the top of a medium-sized bowl and set it in an ice bath. Set aside.

Warm the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a separate small bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the original saucepan.

Over medium heat, stir the mixture constantly with a heatproof plastic spatula or wooden spoon, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the bowl sitting in the ice bath.  Stir until the mixture begins to cool. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

Once cool, whisk in the crème fraîche, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Roasted Honeyed Figs:
1 pint fresh figs
1/4 cup honey

Wash and stem figs, and heat the oven to 375 F.   Slice them in half and arrange cut side up on a baking tray.  Drizzle the honey over top, and roast for about 15 minutes, or until the honey is just being to get dark and caramelized. The figs should not be too soft that they’ll fall apart. They should still hold their shape. Let cool until you’re able to handle, 5-8 minutes, then spoon over bowl of ice cream.

 

  1. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    what a good reminder…to enjoy time over things!! I want to HAVE all of that ice cream. Hoping to spend time with you, my friend. Soon!

  2. Posted August 24, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Heath was my one wedding registry splurge – we get so many compliments on our place settings, and never have to worry about everyday vs company plates. I can’t wait until I can be Bee’s age and hand them down.

  3. Posted August 24, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Beautiful post. It makes you realize how much we WANT that we could totally live without.

    I LOVE old cookbooks. I feel like so many of the books out today are same old same old…kind of like movies…every romantic comedy plot has been beaten to death but the ones from 20 years ago are great!

  4. Posted August 24, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Yum. Why do I always read your post while hungry?

  5. Posted August 24, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    This all makes sense now. You work at Heath Ceramics. That would be why when I asked about your Weck jars over a year ago you told me they were from Heath Ceramics. This is why when I visited San Francisco I planned a trip to Sausalito and why the person at the checkout at Heathseemed so familiar to me. Although I don’t know for sure I am thinking it was you. Were you there last October? Wish I would have known, would have said Hello.

  6. Stephen
    Posted August 24, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    Beautifully written and delicious sentiments. Pop

  7. Posted August 24, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Time well spent with people you love, yes, that is it. Alfred and Bee are wise. Now I want some roasted figs.

  8. Posted August 24, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Megan,
    Your grandparents encouragement to take things reminds me of an aunt I loved dearly. When I was a young adult she became ill and it had long been a joke that became a reality to put your name on things of hers you wanted. She had been an antique store owner and had fabulous, fabulous collections of jewelry, red glass and other fun things. I never could bring myself to ask for anything and when she passed away my uncle insisted I take something. After refusing over and over, he became more insistent. So, I peeked into the drawer in her bathroom where she kept her jewelry, a place I’d peeked every time I visited and it was empty except for one small charm bracelet. It turned out to be the first gift my uncle had ever given her. He was happy to regift it to me. I loved it and wore it everywhere. And then after returning from a trip to REI in Berkeley it was gone. I was devastated. Beyond devastated. Years later I was moving and went through some boxes in my basement and there, lo and behold, was the bracelet! Needless to say, I treasure it and am grateful every day for not the materials but the memories of my aunt and uncle and their generosity and wanting to share the items they treasured. I think of that bracelet as keeping their memories alive by loving it and its significance to them.

  9. Posted August 24, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    Lovely. That was one thing that was really fulfilling for me about working a few days a week at Omnivore. Just watching people who love each other interact, and learning from them.

    And maybe a capful or two of cointreau for that ice cream, which has now made me hungry again ;)

  10. Posted August 24, 2011 at 8:39 pm

    This is beautiful, Megan! One of my favorite posts of yours ever (and I love them all).

    It also reminds me that we need to make some time to go up to Sebastopol and eat ice cream and chat and laugh and enjoy an afternoon off. Let’s make it happen. :)

  11. Posted August 24, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    What an exceptional post! My mom has recently given me her cookbooks as she no longer cooks. Every time I visit I seem to come home with a little something. She’ll say ” I thought you might like this” or “I can’t use this anymore”. I cherish the time I spend with her and know I am in her thoughts.

  12. Posted August 24, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    I totally agree with Bee and Alfred. Some days I feel like getting rid of everything (I’m the opposite of a hoarder) or hiring a cleaner etc so I can spend more time doing what it is I really love. But I guess it’s a bit more realistic to do it later on in life. Though eating delicious ice-cream is for now!

  13. momgordon
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 4:43 am

    Oh, this reminded me of Zeke. Mornings just standing in the driveway spending time together, starting our day. I’m glad I realized it was time well spent and I have those memories. We just did get a kick out of each other!

  14. Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:03 pm

    Such a lovely post. My great grandmother, “Grammy”, was the same way. She lived to her mid-90′s and loved nothing more than playing Dominoes and her morning grapefruit from the tree in her backyard. She was simple. And always smiling. Many of my favorites collide in this recipe. I just bought some figs and crème fraîche, so the stars have certainly aligned!

  15. Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    I think you just made me cry! Seriously, though. I think it’s so important to be reminded, especially by older people, that there are certain things that are just more important. xo

  16. megang
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Oh Elizabeth, you’re going to love the recipe. And thank you for sharing your memories about your great grandmother–she sounds like quite a lady!

  17. megang
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    Lori: Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story. I know exactly what you mean re: the fact that it’s not the loss of the physical thing itself that is devastating but the memories that it stands for. I’m so glad you’ve found the charm bracelet again. I have a few things like this myself: an old ring from my great-grandmother and earrings from my mom…

  18. megang
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Nicole! Yep, I was there last October, so it’s very possible it was me. I also worked a bit more at that time, too. Next time you’re in town, do say hello!

  19. Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    amen! love that last line. I see this sentiment so consistently in older people, and it amazes me that us younger folk can’t seem to catch on sooner. I just bought myself one heath bowl, as the items tend to be a little out of budget and I am in love with it. So nice, what a neat place to work!

  20. Posted August 25, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    You just made me cry. This is something really close to my heart – the realization that no amount of ‘things’ can replace the true joy that comes from being with those close and dear to us. Hoping to spend some time with you soon xo.

  21. Posted August 25, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    The luxury of an empty day with your loved ones—now, that’s something I could get behind. Even more so, if the day included a bowl of this ice cream! Thanks so much for sharing these sweet stories with us, Megan.

  22. Posted August 25, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    So beautiful and true, indeed. Its a good reminder when we’re all so busy and working and not just stepping back and breathing. Thanks Bee!

  23. Posted August 31, 2011 at 2:30 am

    This is a nice treat for when you wanna just lounge around and chatting with family members. Great recipe!

  24. Posted September 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    wow creme fraiche ice cream sounds soo good! i love that it has a slight tartness going to make this this weekend and try to hold on to summer just a little longer :)

  25. Posted September 4, 2011 at 9:51 am

    Great post Megan. It is nice to be at that point in your life. We talk about it often, when we are asked what do we need or want. We really have everything we could want; our health, good jobs, love, family and wonderful friends. Material objects are pretty and shiny but what really matters is our time and how we spend it with the ones that mean the most. Should cherish that now, and not wait until we are 80.

  26. Posted September 29, 2011 at 5:57 am

    What a beautiful post and reminder of what’s truly important in life (besides Juicy Couture purses and Marc Jacobs coats) — being with the ones you love. It really hit home with me since my grandparents are also getting to the point where they are willing to shed the miscellaneous things and focus their energy and time with family instead.

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