Visiting my temple of choice one weekend
– David Jones department store – I came across an irresistible object. Forget
shoes, Chanel, Villeroy & Boch … even more shoes.
There, in the
basement of my dreams, was a shiny silver Italian-brand icecream machine.
Promising endless summers of gelati with almonds, fruit and honey, the way nonna
used to make it.
Quick as a flash I whipped out my credit card.
Only to be restrained by my companion, a look of perplexed horror
furrowing his brow.
‘How could you even consider it?’ he
whispered, the furrowed horror deepening.
Oh no, he’s probably right, I
thought, adjusting my skirt. Fat girl theory.
But I was
‘ANOTHER kitchen appliance?!’ he breathed, in a hissy-fit
kind of way.
I counted them off on mental fingers. Ok, so I’ve got an
electric coffee grinder (birthday gift from best friend), a blender (broken), a
kitchen wand thingy (fabulous, gift to self when blender broke), a toaster
(circa 1987), and a whizzy juice extractor (gift from other best friend and
godchildren – is two best friends greedy? I have three). As for things without
engines, I own two razor sharp German knives to die for or kill with (gift from
father), a Canadian grater that shaves fresh nutmeg (but really, why would
you?), and a Scanpan (gift from Portuguese diplomat).
Beyond that –
well, I do have sixty-one cookbooks, but I don’t own a microwave or a
dishwasher, and I don’t think spatulas and teapots count.
didn’t seem like too much overkill to me.
But I didn’t buy the
icecream machine. Why? I tripped on guilt.
The line between greed and
guilt can be finer than a thread in a Country Road microfibre suit. How much is
enough? How much is too much? What do we need, and what’s that got to do with
what we want, let alone what might be good for us?
Just when, exactly,
are we rich, thin, educated, exercised, traveled, pious, abstemious, modest,
secure, zen, famous, powerful, loved or respected enough?
of something like an answer might lie in cookbook number forty-eight. It’s my
favourite, after number seventeen (the Bible, aka Larousse
Number forty-eight has the following icecream recipe,
Grate a piece of dried fat from moose, reindeer or
caribou into a large bowl.
Add a big spoon of seal oil.
a big spoon of water.
Add a spoon of seal oil. Mix.
spoon of water. Mix.
Keep adding seal oil and water and mixing til the tallow
whips into a smooth cream.
This takes a lot of hand mixing.
people use electric mixers.
After the cream is mixed light and smooth, mix
berries into it.
Add salmon berries, blue berries and black berries (crow
Sugar to taste.
Perplexed and horrified yet? Have the
fancies of Western food fashionistas gone completely beyond the pale?
Consider this, before you hiss. To reconsider.
forty-eight (gift from seventy-something anthropologist) is not so much a
cookbook as a pamphlet. It’s small and slender and printed on what looks like
chlorine-free paper. Its called the Shishmaref Eskimo Cookbook, published
in 1989 by Melvin and Karen Olanna to benefit Shishmaref’s Rural Alaska Native
Vocational Arts Workshop.
In their introduction to this book, Melvin and
Shishmaref is an Eskimo village on the coast of the Bering
Sea. These recipes are traditional foods that reflect that subsistence culture.
The cookbook describes the creative ways arctic fish, animals, plants and
berries were prepared.
The proceeds from book sales go to fund the
Shishmaref Community ivory and bone carving workshop. This workshop helps
maintain traditional lifestyle and values for the young and
Don’t know about you, but whoever wins this election, and
wherever they send their kids to school, this Christmas I’m buying that icecream
But I’ll pass on the seal oil.