Benjie went to a prep school in Manhattan during the school year and summered in Sag Harbor, Long Island. In his fifteenth year, he was determined to remake himself from Dungeons and Dragons master to “cool operator.” He had so much to worry about, being cool. First, it was customary among his group of friends to insult one another relentlessly. Every summer the structure of the insults changed, so you had to be on your toes. I didn’t completely understand the grammatical construction as he described it, and I’d share one of them here but for the fact that this is a G-rated blog that doesn’t permit profanity. Another worry was handshakes-with their complex moves that changed from year to year, Benjie never could quite keep up, failing to add a critical final bump or slide. There were a plethora of other protocols that Benjie had to think about with every social interaction, making the whole idea of being a teenaged boy exhausting.
The book is written with humor and affection for these characters coming of age in the 1980’s. It is beautifully written, which held my interest even when I had no idea what Benjie was going on about culturally. Dag????? Still don’t get it.
THE BEAUTY: Adult Ben mused from the distance of adulthood, “Over the years I have learned that the sunrises and sunsets of that beach are rare and astonishing but I did not know this then.”
THE FOOD: Benjie worked at Jonni Waffle, an ice cream joint in town, and professed to size up a person from the moment they came into the shop until they approached the counter to request what kind of ice cream they wanted. My husband loves rum raisin ice cream so when I read this passage, I knew that ice cream was going to be the recipe for this book:
“The Rum Raisin Imbeciles looked like they were wilting. They has a distinctive sag to their postures, their faces slack and loose, as if their day today had drained away something essential. One bite of Rum Raisin, though, and they instantly perked up, standing up straight, eyes a-sparkle. It was weird.”
I’ll have to observe carefully when I serve this to my husband.
Rum Raisin Ice Cream
1 C raisins
4 oz. dark or amber rum
1 C sugar
6 egg yolks
2 C whipping cream, 35% milk fat or higher
2 C whole milk
1 T pure vanilla extract
Soak raisins in the rum overnight in an airtight container. Shake it every now and then to ensure the raisins are evenly soaked.
Combine the milk and cream and heat in the microwave (or on top of the stove over medium heat until scalding but not boiling.)
In a medium sized saucepan whisk together the egg yolks and sugar very well for about 3 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Whisking constantly, add about a cup of the scalded milk to the egg yolk mixture. This tempers the egg yolks so that they do not cook and scramble. Whisk in about another cup and make sure it is well blended with the egg yolk mixture. Finally add the remaining scalded milk and cream and make sure it is well blended in.
Place the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly but slowly for about 5 minutes until the mixture slightly thickens. At this point you should be able to dip the wooden spoon in the custard and draw a distinct line with your finger on the back of the wooden spoon. Do not boil or mixture may curdle.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Chill the custard for several hours or overnight.
When completely chilled, stir the custard well and pour into your ice cream maker. Process for 20-30 minutes until the ice cream becomes as thick as possible.
Transfer the ice cream quickly to a chilled metal or glass bowl and very quickly fold in the soaked raisins and any rum that has not been absorbed by them.
Place in an airtight container and freeze in the coldest part of your refrigerator freezer or deep freezer for several hours or preferably, overnight, before serving.