It's the height of summer. Time to play outside, fun in the sun. Time for bright smiles, laughter, and lots of sunscreen. It's just that I haven't been feeling any of it. I didn't plan on talking about it here because this is supposed to be my happy place, but it's been hanging over me like a cloud and I can't seem to think about anything else—I was laid off from my day job three weeks ago. It makes me want to retreat inside and close all the blinds. It makes me worry and fret. It makes me feel guilty and inadequate and fills me with self-doubt, like so many others in the same situation right now. It makes me want to hide.
And I have been hiding.
Until the cherries beckoned. They ripened a month later than usual, but they were ready just when I needed them. So my ever-supportive husband packed me up in the car, and we drove into the Gorge for a day of bike riding and cherry picking.
I really needed that. The fresh air and exercise did me good. The big hug from the owner of the cherry orchard did me even better.
We had a picnic lunch in her garden surrounded by the most beautiful scenery.
By the time we started filling our baskets and bellies with cherries, I was feeling—dare I say—joyous again. The festive atmosphere from the hundreds of glittering streamers, hung on the trees to ward off the birds, helped cheer me up.
As did watching the silly goats munch on their share of the cherries.
Sometimes we all need a reminder of how sweet life is. Mine happened to come in the form of twenty-five pounds of ripe cherries.
That one day in the countryside was like a much-needed vacation. It's still tough some days and hard to find reasons to be hopeful. But one smile at a time. My creativity and inspiration are slowly coming back to me and so is my desire to get in the kitchen and cook. I think it's time to look for the next opportunity. Wish me luck—I'll be needing it.
Cheery Cherry Ice Cream
12 ounces cherries, pitted and quartered
1 cup sugar
2 ½ cups milk
6 large egg yolks
2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon Kirsch
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
Combine the cherries and ¼ cup of the sugar in a small pot and let macerate, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until soft and juicy. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tender. Chill over an ice bath until ice-cold.
Meanwhile, bring the milk to a bare simmer in a small, heavy saucepan. Whisk together the yolks and remaining ¾ cup of sugar in a large bowl. Continue whisking while adding the hot milk in a thin stream. Place the bowl with the yolk mixture over a medium pan of simmering water, and heat, whisking constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and whisk in the cream, Kirsch, and almond extract. Chill over an ice bath until ice-cold. Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn until frozen. With the motor running, add the cherry mixture in a thin stream. Transfer to a container and freeze for 4 to 6 hours before serving.
Makes about 2 quarts. If your ice cream maker doesn't have an opening for adding mix-ins, transfer 1/3 of the ice cream to a container, drizzle with ½ of the cherry mixture, and repeat layering with the remaining ice cream and cherries. For the best texture, enjoy within a day or two of churning.