“At the local diving pool,” begins Eshani Surya’s essay “Lessons in Drowning”, “Where most of us town kids go to splash and race, where we go to eat Good Humor vanilla king cones, the creamy coldness turning to sticky residue on our cheeks, I climb a tall ladder, braving the flexible board that gives under my feet.” This multivocal piece–about, among other things, being the daughter of an Indian immigrant in a primarily white community, and how that plays out at the pool–is astonishing, and you should definitely read it. It doesn’t surprise me that it begins with the image of Good Humor sticky on childish cheeks because Surya–a close friend–and I spend a lot of time talking about ice cream. We once collaborated on a flavor involving activated charcoal, meant to mimic an Arizona monsoon, and another time took a bus from a conference center in Portland to Salt & Straw because we refused to leave the city without trying their olive and pear & blue cheese flavors.
Surya is currently recovering from surgery (she tweets about living with chronic illness and other important and interesting things at @__eshani) and, as a gift, I developed this recipe for her. It draws on my own childhood summers, when I would line up in the town pool’s canteen, usually on my own (as an obviously gender-deviant, nerdy kiddo, I wasn’t very popular!) to buy Marino’s Italian Ice. It was six ounces of sweet, cold delight in a bright-yellow paper cup with a spoon tucked in the lid. While I sometimes ordered electric Blue Gelati or classic Lemon, Chocolate was my favorite–I loved the way the slightly-bitter cocoa would cut through the treat’s water base, not diluted or too rich the way milk- and cream-based chocolate ice creams sometimes are.
Since mint-chocolate is one of Surya’s favorite flavors, I added a few sprigs of fresh mint to this for a background note.
Chocolate-Mint Italian Ice
Makes: 1 pint
Special equipment: Ice cream maker
1/2 cup sugar
2.5 cups water
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 sprigs of fresh mint (or sub 1 tsp peppermint extract)
1 tbsp liquor (optional)
Put sugar, water, cocoa and chocolate chips in a pot over medium heat and whisk to combine. Add 3 sprigs of mint. Turn heat up to medium-high and, whisking occasionally, bring to a boil. Let the mixture remain on boil for one minute. Turn off heat, let the mixture cool, and then pour it into a container. Refrigerate the container for at least four hours or overnight. When you’re ready to make the Italian ice, remove the sprigs of mint and add a tablespoon of liquor if you’d like (I use marsala, vodka would also work nicely). Pour mixture into ice cream maker and make according to manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze for at least one hour before serving.