For about two weeks there, I was in the ice cream business.
While Josh was not nearly as excited as I was the day that I brought home an ice cream machine, after he tasted the mint julep ice cream, he was on board. He ended up buying the same exact machine for a fellow server at his restaurant who was getting married. The bride was apparently not impressed at first, until someone explained to her how very easy it is to make homemade ice cream. She made three batches in the first two weeks. Pretty soon, she was talking up the ice cream at work, trying to convince the owner of the restaurant that he could sell homemade ice cream there. The owner was skeptical, but then Josh brought in some intensely rich dark chocolate ice cream that we made. It was very convincing.
Our deal was that his coworker would provide strawberry and cappuccino, while Josh would bring chocolate and pistachio. Each serving would sell for $4, which would be split down the middle between the owner and the maker. We looked at recipes to find just the right one, because we hadn't actually made pistachio ice cream before. There are a lot of them out there, but I knew what I was looking for. I wanted one that started out with ingredients as raw as possible. I wanted ones that called for actual nuts in the ingredients, not extract or paste. I found the recipe, we made it, and, man, was it good.
And suddenly, Josh and I had an ice cream business. Our lives suddenly seemed to revolve around dairy. We were always cleaning the machine or visiting new stores to compare prices on pistachios or staying up late to churn another batch. We had a jar of egg whites in the fridge, leftovers from all the yolks that were going into the product. We never did figure out what to do with them, other than make a lot of angel food cake. I bet it would be good with ice cream.
It was all very exciting, and I was trying hard to keep my feet on the ground. We talked about our ice cream futures - seasonal flavors, whether other local restaurants might be interested, the idea of selling it by the pint. Josh wanted to come up with names for our flavors and also for our business, but to me that was too far. We just started making two flavors at one restaurant. Let's see where it goes before we get ahead of ourselves. It did seem to be selling pretty well, though I suspect that was party due to a pair of waiters with vested interest in the enterprise.
It seemed like a story of opportunity in the making. We were just regular people who had a very common countertop home appliance. If this thing really took off, where would it go? Years from now, would we be telling this story in an interview for Gourmet magazine? Even as I was telling myself to take it slowly, I had a vision in my head. I imagined being featured in the Raleigh News & Observer, where they run a column sharing recipes from local eateries. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone wrote in to ask for the recipe to make ice cream just like that little Italian place in Morrisville? I've clipped many a recipe from that column. This was my silly fantasy.
And then it was over. One night we stayed up shelling a pound of pistachios while watching The Muppet Show, the next day Josh made the cream which I churned that night, and the day after that, his boss decided that there was more money to be made by buying ice cream in big batches from the food distributor. I don't doubt that's true, but I also doubt that the distributor's ice cream is as good as ours. They probably didn't even shell the pistachios themselves with their poor tired fingers. Surely tired fingers count for something. That's what we could have called it - Tired Fingers Pistachio Ice Cream.
In some ways, I am disappointed, and in others, I am not. Already, it was getting to be a lot of work. I was never sure that the pistachio was even going to be profitable, because the nuts are so expensive. It's hard to enjoy a quality product when you suspect you're going to be losing money on it. I will still make ice cream at home, the way I intended to when I bought the machine. I will still seek out interesting recipes that use raw ingredients. Now I can just enjoy it.
And so for two weeks, I thought about ice cream differently, and I saw an unexpected future, where my life revolved around it. It seems that unexpected future will not come to pass, but I'm all the more interested to see what will, if even such an unlikely prospect as having an ice cream business was briefly possible.