Saturday, May 19, 2007

Hope Springs in Purple

One of my professors, Dr. Smith, used to tell us a story when urging us towards specificity in our writing. I have no idea about the veracity of this tale, but I believed it because Dr. Smith said it. He was Scottish, dreamy, and would rock on his toes when telling a story. Everyone listened raptly, even my friend Josh who would be hung over, wearing remnants of his girlfriend's eyeliner, and sporting lopsided bedhead. This story began like this:

Nabokov used to guest lecture at various colleges throughout the Northeast, and when he would, aspiring writers would descend upon the campus, hoping to get the opportunity to sit in on one of his lectures.

Dr. Smith told this story more than once, but his accent was too sexy to ignore, even if you had heard what he had to say before.

At one lecture, a student waited until all the others had left, hoping for a moment to speak directly to the writer. More than anything, he wanted a nugget of writing truth, some clue that would help him achieve at least a fraction of Nabokov's success. When the room cleared out, he gathered his courage and approached his literary hero. He asked, "Sir, is there some suggestion that you have that could help me become a better writer?"

Nabokov responded with a question, pointing out of the classroom window. "What is that you see out there?" he asked.

The student looked out the window, smiled, and responded, "A tree. Why do you ask?"

Nabokov frowned. "A tree? You will never be a good writer." He turned, walked away, leaving a bewildered young man in his wake.

Professor Smith went on to explain the necessity for naming things specifically; a tree isn't a tree--it is a harbor for seagulls, a shade for lovers, an English oak, a cottonwood--but never just a tree. I tell this to my students each year. We laugh together at what a crappy teacher Nabokov was, to leave his student more confused, and most likely quite frustrated, but they get what I mean by telling the story. Something happens each year here in Southern California that teaches the same lesson more effectively than I ever could, no matter how good the story, or how well I tell it.

Every year, the jacarandas bloom.


A tree is not a tree. A tree is, as my usually non-sentimental friend SM says, "food for a soul."


A tree is grape candy.


A tree is why my out-of-town friends tell me I live in a resort, not a city.


A tree is time for AP exams, college graduations, summer in sight. It is a fragrant lavender smoke of hope, falling gently on a whole city.

Hope Gelato


No, it isn't laced with jacaranda blossoms, but it is the same color, and just as hopeful-- a vibrant gelato that will make all of the blueberry lovers you know swoon. Now that blueberries are hitting the farmers' market, buy them. There are multitudes of delicious approaches to blueberries, but I suggest you try this, as it is one of the truest ways to experience blueberry goodness.


You will need:
1 1/2 cups of washed blueberries, picked over for stems
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup lowfat milk

To make the gelato:
Stir the blueberries, sugar, and pinch of salt together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Make sure to stir frequently to keep the fruit from sticking to the pan. Once the mixture boils, reduce the heat to medium until the fruit began to soften and burst. This should only take a few minutes, perhaps three or four. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a food processor. Pulse the machine a couple of times. If you like pieces of fruit in your gelato, as I do, do not completely puree the mixture, but leave it chunky. If you prefer a smoother gelato, puree completely.

Stir in the lemon juice, pour the mixture into a lidded container, and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours, preferably overnight, so it is solidly cold.

When you are ready to make the gelato, stir in the cream first, then the milk, and immediately pour into your ice cream maker. Follow the ice cream maker's directions to complete the process. Place the gelato in the freezer in an air-tight container. To serve, set the container on the counter for few minutes before dishing to assure a smooth, dense consistency.

Serves six as a sweet flourish at the end of a dinner party.
Serves four as a substantial dessert for a balcony barbecue.
Serves two as a meal.
Serves one in a large bowl when that one may be in desperate need for large quantities of hope.

14 comments:

Shaun said...

Christina - I LOVE Jacarandas, and seeing them in bloom all over Southern California is one of the visuals I miss. Thank you so much for posting the photos...they capture the "trees" so beautifully. And the gelato...yummy. I can't wait to make the most of the farmers' markets when I return to the States in the Summer. I will definitely try this recipe, for I have only made a sorbet with blueberries before.

Susan said...

Nabokov as Zen master. LOL!

Amazing photos, Christine. Thanks for introducing me to the jacaranda. A shock to the system that reminds me how richly varied our flora and fauna are depending on region.

Lucy said...

Jacarandas always make me think of my home in Sydney. The carpet of blooms they leave beneath the trees is breathtaking. You are lucky to have them so close by.

Best blueberry gelato I've had was an organic one in New Zealand. Yours looks decidedly less clothes staining, and perfectly matched to the season.

sarahww said...

How funny you should mention jacs -- I was driving on the 605, which is much higher than the surrounding cities, and all I could see were bursts of purple jutting up everywhere. It was a happy sight on such a gray day.

Genie said...

Dang, Christina. Nabokov, trees AND gelato? All in one post? It's too much. TOO MUCH. I cannot take it.

Now I want some ice cream.

;-)

Susan in Italy said...

Ooh! Drinking in the purple... I really miss the bushels of blueberries from the midwest.

Christina said...

Shawn: Thanks for the compliments. Yes, the trees are wonderful and I can see why you miss them. I hope your return to the states and good farmers' markets is everything you expect--they're such an great way of shopping. What's your trick with the blueberry sorbet?

Susan: Thanks for the compliments. I agree with you that our world has so much to offer--I scarcely can take it all in!

Lucy: I agree--The lavender carpet of spent blossoms is a spectacular sight. I tried to capture it with the camera, but no matter my effort, I just couldn't create a shot that accurately represented the beauty of the blossom-cluttered ground.

Sarahww: Oh friend, I knew you'd know what I was talking about. This series of gray days is really getting me down. Watch for references to your bad self in an upcoming post near you.

Genie: Yay! I love your blog, so I'm so happy you decided to stop by mine. Thanks for the compliments--I appreciate them. Go make some ice cream with whatever is in season in Iowa. Hmmm. What is in season in Iowa right now?

Christina said...

Susan in Italy: I'm glad you're enjoying the purple. I don't blame you for missing "bushels of blueberries." The man I interviewed a couple of weeks ago says that certain varieties of blueberries grow well in warmer climes, even on balconies, just as long as they're potted in almost 100% peat. Perhaps you could grow a plant in a pot?

Anonymous said...

I am so bookmarking this recipe and giving it a try... the color and texture looks perfect. And professors with sexy accents are the best. ;)

Ari (Baking and Books)

Shaun said...

Christina - The only "trick" I can think of with the blueberry is lemon juice. It somehow makes the blueberries taste more like blueberries, if that makes any sense. I use about 1/3 cup of lemon juice, but you could probably get away with 1/4 cup.

Christa said...

Christina,
I am swooning for some of that gelato! Bluberries are my favorite berry and this recipe sounds divine. It looks beautiful, too. Those Jacaranda trees are something else.

Lovely post.

Christina said...

Ari: Yes, they are the best, those sexy-talking professors.

Shaun: The addition of lemon juice to a sorbet makes perfect sense. Without it, the fruit would be too sweet and lose its acidic charm.

Christa: How soon before the blueberries start hitting the market in DC? You may have blueberry gelato in your near future!

Anonymous said...

http://www.poems.com/poem.php?date=13663

Kristan

Christina said...

Kristan: Thank you for that link to "Poplars." It made me shiver.