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It’s been a week since I left Boston and I already miss my ice cream runs in Cambridge.  I love Toscanini’s Grape Nut, Christina’s Khulfi, and Lizzy’s Ginger.  But my latest obsession was JP Lick’s Peach flavored ice cream, which apparently only makes an appearance during the summer.  It’s so refreshing and light that I forget it must be chock-full of calories. On any hot day, it doesn’t take much convincing to make me gravitate towards the nearest creamery.

One of the best afternoons was spent sitting at a booth in the original JP Licks store in Jamaica Plain.  Despite the long line of eager tourists and neighborhood residents waiting to get their sugar fix, we usurped the table to play an epic game of Risk that lasted four hours.  Long after we finished our cones, we were still duking it out on our board game.

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JP Lick’s peach was also the last ice cream I had in the city.  Emerging from the crammed shop with a decent sized scoop in a waffle cone, my friend and I headed towards the river by the Harvard houses.  Sticky cream was dribbling down the sides, almost faster than I can lick.  The heavy heat was bearing down on us, turning my frozen dessert into a sweet molten mess.  We finished our treats in a tranquil courtyard, the sound of leaves rustling above our heads and traces of peach lingering on my tongue.  Contentment.

Most people like to savor their ice cream; I inhale mine.  Not because I’m impatient (well, not only for that reason), but because I get stressed out when ice cream isn’t eaten before it begins to melt.  It needs to be in its pristine form!  That is why when Juan and I bought frozen yogurt two weeks ago, and he asked me not to start eating during the 5 minute drive home where we can both enjoy them together, I said, “Yeah right!” and proceeded to gulf mine down.

That is also why it was so torturous to take these pictures, because I almost could not stand to see the ice cream sitting untouched, in the heat of the kitchen.

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Juan had bought me an ice cream maker.  It only made sense that we should try to make our own peach ice cream.  Using Ben and Jerry’s recipe book, we chopped fresh peaches into large chunks, let it stew in some sugar for a few hours, and used the juices to flavor the cream.  As the machine churned the mixture, we poured in the leftover peach chunks.  The result was a quart’s worth of fabulous peach ice cream that was gone in three days.  If I had to change anything, I would cut the peaches smaller next time to avoid biting into large frozen fruit pieces.

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It’s not a good sign when you find yourself absentmindedly staring at the computer for twenty minutes and realizing that all you’ve done is click back and forth between gmail and NYtimes.  Bleakly, I shuffle the half a dozen articles strewn across my desk, left open on the page where I lost interest and skipped to another one.  “I’ll come back and finish them later” is what I told myself a week ago.  And if you look at my planner, I’ve written the same thing on my daily to-do list—everyday—for the past two weeks.  Most notably, “morning run” has been carried over for almost a month, and I have yet to hit the pavement and kiss the morning sun. 

Even baking has turned its back on me.  After investing a bunch of eggs, a pack of basil, and half a jug of milk, I have nothing to show except curdled custard and deflated dreams of creamy, delicious ice cream.  Determined to get something right for the week, I attempted Lemon Raspberry Bars, which turned out aesthetically mediocre and gustatorily disgusting.  At this point, I just gave up—both in the kitchen and at work.  I could not wake up in the morning without groaning, shove my way through the crowded train without mentally cursing, and sit at my lab bench without sighing.  Come the weekend, I promised myself, I would turn a new leaf.  I would bounce back with renewed rigor.  The weekend would be spent in a blaze of glorious productivity that would compensate for my lack thereof during the week. 

                    

Who am I kidding?  I probably would’ve lounged around all Saturday, beat myself up for being lazy, and do the same thing on Sunday.  At the end of it, I’d be neither relaxed nor productive.  Thank goodness I was going white water rafting in Maine.  It’s not the Caribbeans or fancy shmancy Europe, but the trip was a godsend. 

I had my misgivings about the trip.  Not only because I held out some hope that I would be productive if I just sat myself down at my desk, but I’m also not the type to chase after thrills.  I imagined my small body being thrown into the merciless waters, my head slammed against the rocks on the river bottom.  But at this point, I rather face potential death by rocks than endure a stinking hot weekend in Cambridge. 

                    

Our group headed out onto the Kennebec mid-morning on a dreary, cold day.  The water was a deep grayish green that was warm to the touch despite the chilliness of the air.  Tall evergreens lined both banks of the river; so dense was the foliage that you felt like there was nothing else besides you and this river.  I stared at the them, hoping to see moose antlers poking through the leaves.  With my chest strapped to a smelly life vest and feet stuffed as far as they could go into the foot holes, I braced myself for impact.     

I was completely drenched in the first few minutes.  Three to five foot waves crashed into our raft and toppled over the sides.  I tried to shy away from the oncoming deluge, but found it much more exhilarating to watch the tall peaks and deep troughs of foamy, white water rise up and fall around us.  I loved it.  Once we sailed out of the rough patch, I couldn’t wait to go through the next set of rapids.  But even the calm waters held a magic of their own.  Drifting lazily down the river, its surface broken by ripples and gentle waves, I was at peace.  An occasional bubbly spot marked the places where the current hit hidden rocks. 

                     

The sun finally broke through the clouds when we came back to our cabins.  I grabbed my camera and went for a walk.  The surrounding countryside was so quaint and rustic that my pictures really don’t do it justice.  They’re probably better than what I could put into words anyway. 

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

It’s been a week since I’ve been back, and life’s so good.  Not that everything is perfect—most of my experiments didn’t work and my cherry clafoutis was a bust—but I could find joy in the things that I do.  Sometimes when you stop trying to control your life, every little blip doesn’t seem so dramatic anymore.  Like when you’re riding on a raft, buffeted by the waves, realizing that there is nothing you can do except to ride it out.  It leaves you with a peace that comes with knowing that there is something out there bigger than you. 

Attempt #2 at making Basil Ice Cream was a semi-success!  This time I used a double-boiler to heat the milk and eggs to prevent curdling.  If you’re one of those people like me who hate mint flavored ice cream, then I’m certain you’d love basil.  Most people tend to associate its strong, bold taste with savory Thai dishes; but in ice cream, it becomes something rather delicate and refreshing.  The only thing I wish I had done differently was to let it churn for longer in the machine; otherwise, it would’ve been perfect.  But you know, I’m cool with that. 

                    

Basil Ice Cream from 17 and Baking