It Bears Repeating

Spiced Coconut Ice Cream from Date Night In / Eat This Poem

It was very good timing to find Ashley's new cookbook at my doorstep in December. One set of recipes in particular, from the date night inspired by "A Touch of Thai," had me dreaming of being back in Thailand. Coconut ice cream was a daily treat while we sat under umbrellas in Krabi, and I was itching for tropical flavors in the weeks after we returned. 

I love when recipes take you somewhere else. In this case, not only was I reminded of the fond memories of my own vacation with my husband, but I was given a glimpse into two other marriages. Before turning the pages to reveal spring rolls, green curry, and this ice cream, you read lovingly about Ashley and her husband Gabe sitting under walnut trees to celebrate her parents' fortieth wedding anniversary. And under these majestic trees, her dad asked a probing question: "What have we done in our marriage that you all have taken into your own marriages?" 

It's a heavy question, the kind parents feel comfortable asking once their children are grown and established and everyone starts treating each other like adults. For Ashley, the question reminded her how important small actions are, because it's in mundane moments like setting the table with cloth napkins for another date night that feelings about marriage begin to form for her children. It's a very special thing to read about, proving what we all know to be true: A meal is more than the sum of its ingredients, and food continues to be one of the intimate ways we can connect with those we love and cherish, romantic or not.

In gathering the ingredients for coconut ice cream, I couldn't help but consider Paul Hostovsky's poem "Coconut." We've talked about it before, but that's the beauty of poetry: It bears repeating.

Reading a good poem once is rarely enough. There are books I walk to year after year and flip open a single page of before placing it back on the shelf. Sometimes that's all you need. The words are there when I crave reminding of something long forgotten, to offer comfort, bring a smile, inspire me, offer something new. 

This time around, I was most interested in happiness. It's something Ashley's book nudges your towards, too, finding quiet moments in a day to spend time with the ones you care about most. It's easy to go through our week just bypassing each other, even when you live in the same house and sleep in the same bed. Quality time is what we're after, and sometimes you simply need to put it on the calendar and make an evening of it. 

Spiced Coconut Ice Cream \\ Eat This Poem


by Paul Hostovsky

Bear with me I
want to tell you
something about
it's hard to get at 
but the thing is
I wasn't looking
I was looking
somewhere else
when my son found it
in the fruit section
and came running
holding it out
in his small hands
asking me what
it was and could we
keep it it only
cost 99 cents
hairy and brown
hard as a rock
and something swishing
around inside
and what on earth
and where on earth
and this was happiness
this little ball
of interest beating
inside his chest
this interestedness
beaming out
from his face pleading
and because I wasn't
happy I said
to put it back
because I didn't want it
because we didn't need it
and because he was happy
he started to cry
right there in aisle
five so when we 
got it home we
put it in the middle
of the kitchen table
and sat on either
side of it and began
to consider how
to get inside of it

From Bending the Notes (Main Street Rag, 2008)

There's a moment in the poem when the Dad says "we can't have it" because he isn't happy, so he projects that onto his son. His son starts to cry because his happiness was squashed under the fluorescent lights of the produce aisle. It took only a second, but when we are not living from a place of happiness, and our hearts are not open to it on a moment-by-moment basis, we hurt the people we love, rather unintentionally, but it changes our experience of the moment. 

You see, we are back to the moments that seem utterly unimportant, yet have such a profound impact. It's not unlike eating ice cream. A scoop can be devoured in minutes, without pause, without so much as a smile if you're really concentrating, but that would be missing the point, something Ashley articulates so beautifully.

By the time the spiced coconut ice cream sits in front of us, melting in little pools of hot coffee, the house is perfectly quiet. We are silent too as we savor the ice cream’s mix of coolness and warmth. I feel whole, happy to have had time with my husband, proud to be an example for our kids.
— Ashley Rodriguez, Date Night In
Spiced Coconut Ice Cream // Eat This Poem


In this recipe you'll find the spices are warming but not overpowering. I made a few tweaks to accommodate what my pantry offered, and have to say, this recipe a complete winner. 

Slightly adapted from Ashley Rodriguez, Date Night In

1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 can coconut cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine the coconut milk, coconut cream, vanilla seeds and the pod, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes for the flavors to infuse.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt for two minutes, until pale yellow. Return the liquid to a simmer and pour a ladle-full into the eggs, whisking briskly to temper it, then pour the eggs and sugar mixture into the custard, whisking continuously until incorporated. Cook over medium heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, about 3 minutes.

Strain the custard into a large bowl and cool to room temperature before freezing in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

Postcards from Thailand

I’ll tell you how the sun rose, —
A ribbon at a time.

-Emily Dickinson

The world is a mighty accessible place. In the span of a day, we can fly almost anywhere we please, going to sleep in one time zone, then landing in another halfway around the globe. As a reasonably seasoned traveler, this is not a new discovery, but I was reminded of it more profoundly while I was in Thailand, helped in large part by the book I was reading, The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

It was completely transporting. The sweeping journey left me longing to finish the book in a matter of days (which I did, while taking short breaks to eat coconut milk ice cream, it should be noted). Protagonist Alma Whittaker was born in 1800, and the book spans a large chunk of the 19th century. Heavily researched and detailed, I truly found myself lost in the world of botany, science, moss, and sailing. There's a point in the story when Alma goes on a quest, sending her on a ship from Philadelphia bound for Tahiti, and that's where I paused.

Here I was in the south of Thailand, having flown approximately 18 hours to arrive. Alma boarded a ship that took an unbearably long seven months to arrive. With no internet. No cell phone reception. No friends or family. No real sense of whether or not she would even arrive alive. (As it turns out, she did arrive, but her luggage and all her precious earthly possessions were promptly stolen by the villagers.) 

It's no wonder I never felt as far away as I actually was, because although there are always stresses of travel and sometimes uncomfortable hours on a long flight, it's put in perspective when you think of what challenging journeys existed in other eras. So, you might say I was smitten with this book, and the story came at just the right time for me to fully enjoy it. For that, I say a great big thank you to Elizabeth Gilbert.  

During our trip Andrew and I took a cooking class while we stayed in Krabi, and I can't even tell you how enjoyable the street food was in Bangkok. From pad thai to mango sticky rice to noodles to coconut crackers to prawns the size of lobsters to spicy sauces drizzled over tender chunks of chicken, we were in a paradise of sorts. This week I've been trying to reset by eating lots of leafy greens, drinking pressed juices, and attempting to start sleeping normally again. On the recipe front, I'm afraid I haven't had any time to start cooking Thai food at home yet or even fully collect my thoughts and notes. 

I know the Thai flavors will beckon me to the kitchen in good time, and until then, I hope you enjoy a few photos that will give you a taste of this very magical country.