I turn 45 this year. It’s a peculiar time, and not just because the glow emitted by my birthday candles will be visible from space. I find myself at a crossroads, poised between two great loves.
Though I am not without bodily discomforts and cognitive lapses, I have enough (just) dwindling brain power to know that I am blessed with health. Aesthetically though, a battle rages within my body. As with most wars, it’s fought over real estate. The disputed lands? My midsection, Eaters. Will my love of food or my love of exercise win out? I am torn, as my favorite soft rock station sings it, between two lovers.
It’s fascinating, or would be, if I were merely an observer and didn’t have so much skin, and subcutaneous tissue, in the game. A woman told my sister that when she turned 48, she woke one morning to find that her arms had turned to jelly. The way she described it, there was an audible “thunk.”
I heard a quieter version of that sound when I was 28, three months before I got married. I looked in a full length mirror and said, “What’s that?” I was not being hypercritical; there had been a silent avalanche. I had just that week gotten engaged. My muscle fibers somehow knew to hold fast until I had secured a verbal agreement of marriage. That’s the last smart thing they ever did.
This week closes a race training cycle I began in January. It hasn’t been anything outlandish: 3 miles of running, 4-5 times weekly, with longer runs on the weekends. I am pleased to see it through, and turn another page.
But I am also trepidatious about this next season of life, as it is the season of ice cream sandwiches. Eaters, you know I am a fan of devouring what’s ripe, and these little cookie/cream hybrids are at the peak of their succulence and desirability in July and August. A small local grocery story carries Three Twins, a Petaluma brand my Northern California BFF introduced me to (a successful fix-up). The store dismantles the packages of salted caramel cookie ice cream sandwiches and sells them individually. They might as well have an enormous vacuum at the front door, with a woman-sized hose, sucking me in as I walk by.
But my all-time favorite i.c.s. are the Ciao Bella Key Lime Graham Gelato Squares. Exercise caution: once you try these, the rest of your life is spent questing. They do give one a rousing sense of purpose. In between sightings, (they are not widely available) you can try your hand at making your own i.c.s.! I haven’t attempted to copy Ciao Bella because that’s like improving on Mozart. But I tore this recipe out of Bon Appetit a few years ago, knowing I would use it eventually. I made my own coffee ice cream for these, but only because I wanted decaffeinated. These i.c.s. are screamingly good. You think you scream for ice cream now? Just wait.
I realize this bumper crop may tip the scales finally, fatally, in favor of one side. I can only hope the opponent swoops in for a last minute save. But as these pictures of a test kitchen staff member plainly illustrate, there is no love more sincere than the love of food.
*George Bernard Shaw said it, but clearly, my daughter lived it.