Essayist Ettinger’s affection for ice cream takes her across the country in a search for variations on her favorite food.
The author, who attributes her interest to the “immense tubs of generic-brand ice cream” her father dragged home in compensation for other lacks in the family, now describes herself as an “ice cream snob.” She has taught herself to make ice cream and includes relatively esoteric recipes at the end of many of the chapters, though readers interested in duplicating her efforts might be wise to first read her chapter about the difficulty of manufacturing her chosen delight. Ettinger enrolled in the short version of “the world’s most famous ice cream making class” at Penn State University, where she faced the dilemma of whether to spit out samples or not and learned more than she wanted to know about listeria. More than anything, the Santa Cruz–based author traveled, sampling frozen custard in Milwaukee and getting carjacked in the process; riding along in a Brooklyn ice cream truck and learning about the vicious territory disputes for such trucks in New York; and even, to her own disgust, investigating her nemesis, frozen yogurt, which tries “so unsuccessfully to imitate the whipped fatty creaminess of my childhood obsession.” Along the way, she makes the questionable case that “ice cream is more like a drug than any other food,” and she works up a certain amount of indignation about how many ice cream makers, even allegedly artisan operations, use commercial ice cream base rather than manufacturing their own. But for the most part, she keeps her tone light, concentrating on the pleasures of Brown Butter Spiced Pumpkin Seed gelato, “like a studly hazelnut gigolo.”
Best consumed in small portions, Ettinger’s book will be a vicarious treat for fellow addicts.