I remember laying on the bed with my sister and grandpa at his old house in Parra. We squeezed together with us children along the side that touched the wall. He told us stories as our eyes met the roof, tracing shapes and projecting creatures he let us imagine. We might have heard these same stories before but when you’re young, repetition doesn’t get old. It’s comforting. He told us the Goan folk story of Attulem Bittulem, the two sisters who blinded a tiger with their sneezes. His version was a little different. Sneezes turned into farts and I only realised this much later. When he got to a part of the story where they unleash their fury to scare away the tiger, we turned giddy. Our little bodies were ready to shake with laughter, as if we’ve never heard his sound effects before. That day was a little different. We all started laughing and my grandfather’s arms laughed too. His arm bumped into my sister’s face anf that was enough to make the loose tooth in her mouth pop right out. She realised what had happened and didn’t keep quiet about it. I remember Babdi apologising and me laughing and all of us interrupting story time to go take care of that tooth. It was its time to fall.
I remember wearing my first pair of jeans. They were were ill-fitting, hand-me-down pants but I had to start somewhere. We had guests over. It was early afternoon and I was headed to my Maths or French tuition just up the road. I wore those jeans reluctantly. I figured this was some big day in the life of this growing up thing. Up to that time jeans were just something the cool kids wore. I felt out of place; like those pants didn’t belong on my body. That day I had a burst of confidence brought on by the fact that our guests had a son (I have no recollection of who these people were but I do know there was a boy. Grosss!). I walked up the stairs, said hello to the guests (queen of cool, obviously) and walked out the door to practice my (actual) French. It was the first time I really, really missed my grandfather. This was the first of many firsts I knew he would never see. He died when I was 10. At that age, I had no idea how to feel grief. For me grief was all about words adults would say that would half-convince me that I was supposed to be sad and yet, I couldn’t. I was 14 now and I finally understood real loss; over denim.
People, animals and things have come and gone more often since then. Each time is confusing. The missing hits me out of nowhere. My mind lingers, pauses and overwhelms and I can’t tell which will come first. On Thursday I stopped at one of my favourite cafes before going to work. I had some rare time to spend reading my book and I grabbed it with some caffeinated brew they spoil you with. Life and Charles Schulz had other plans. I sat on the sofa and my heart opened to the whims of this silly dog that writes novels on his typewriter and looks nothing like a beagle. I couldn’t help but relate Snoopy to my own four-legged friend back in Goa whom we lost to old age and illness last week. Two days after she (I imagine) sprinted through the puppy fields of the universe, I knew I would really, really, really miss her. And I do. I am so happy that ice-cream loving, chickpea-eating girl got to be ours for 18 years.
We ate a lot of jelly (what Americans call Jell-O) and custard while growing up. Sometimes mashed in with cake and other times fresh fruit. I thought it was about time I taught myself to make the not-from-a-box custard because a) SO easy b) Yum. So I did. And then I froze it. And added blackberries I picked from the side of the road on my day off.
This is frozen custard but if you’d like to skip the frozen part completely, just chill it overnight until it sets and eat it with the blackberries.
Adapted from Serious Eats
- 1 pint blackberries + 1 tbsp of granulated sugar
- 4 large egg yolks
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp light corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- A pinch of salt
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Pour the blackberries into a small bowl and toss them with the sugar. Cover the bowl with a plate and let them sit on the counter for about an hour. Once the sugar has managed to soften the berries, use the back of a spoon to partially mash them up. Pour out some of the liquid from the bowl into a cup. You can use this juice to top the custard with later.
Fill a large bowl with ice up to the halfway mark to make an ice bath. Place another bowl in it with a strainer over the top. You will use this to cool the custard.
In a small saucepan, beat the egg yolks together with the sugar and corn syrup until combined. The mixture will turn pale yellow and you won’t see as much of the sugar granules. Pour in the heavy cream and milk and mix well. Place the saucepan on medium-low heat and whisk constantly for about 15-20 minutes until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon*. Make sure not to leave the contents unattended/un-whisked because the eggs will cook, thus ruining your chances for a silky smooth custard. Once the custard has sufficiently thickened, quickly take it off the heat, while still whisking. Pour the custard into the strainer and whisk allowing it to pass through the strainer and into the bowl sitting in the ice bath. Stir the strained custard till it cools a bit and then place the bowl into the fridge. Chill the custard for a couple of hours or overnight. Overnight is best but if you’re short of time, 2 hours will do. I like it when the custard is almost of pudding or soft whipped cream consistency.
Pour the custard into your ice-cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 15-20 minutes. Add the blackberries in the final 2 minutes. Freeze the custard for an in a freezer-safe container for an hour until it firms up but still has that smooth custard texture. Serve it cold with more fresh blackberries and the juices you may have saved from earlier.
*Dip a spoon into the custard and let it coat the back. Run your finger along the back of the spoon. If the line is clean and it holds its shape, the custard is ready. According to Serious Eats, the temperature you’re looking for is 170F.