Just like the great Alanis Morrissette, my grasp of what is actual irony may well be as shady as my enjoyment of saying "isn't it ironic" is fervent. But it does seem ironic or something how I am so tired that my brain feels like someone pressed pause on a video of a fallen ceramic vase smashing into a thousand pieces, and my brain is that vase, fragile and perpetually shattering. And according to this "today in your social media history" app I have, on this day last year I was tweeting about feeling the exact same way. That's not the ironic bit, although it is...something. What I consider the isn't it ironic don't you think bit, is how I was writing about it for three long paragraphs here when suddenly, I literally couldn't tell if I was just very tired, and therefore unable to continue reading and writing it, or so bored by my lifeless writing that I was falling asleep. And so I deleted the lot and forced myself to start again. So here we are.
I do remember a high school English teacher telling us that irony was a lot like sarcasm, and feeling unfamiliar confusion, like I'd accidentally wandered into a maths class. Isn't it more like...rain on your wedding day? Ironically - I think? - these days I really wouldn't mind if it rains on my wedding day. The point is: you are always correct in using the word 'ironic', but only if you say it with confident authority. And also, I am very, very tired and underslept. Partly from doing work on my cookbook proof - exciting! And partly from being not very talented at sleeping. Which is less exciting.
Somewhere out there, Alanis Morrisette is quietly googling her own name out of idle curiousity, and sighing heavily.
Earlier this year I had the inexplicable but thank-goodness-it-was-me-not-someone-else honour of being named one of New Zealand's People of Influence for 2013 by a major nationwide publication. Not to try and pre-empt eyerolls or anything, and I said this at the time, but I didn't quite realise when I submitted my interview the nature of where it was going to end up. Hence why I'm talking about stuff like pretzels in it. But y'know, if I had my time over, my words would likely still be the same. Pretzels are so important. And I decided that since I'd said they were going to be a Big Deal this year, it was time to put my money where my mouth is by doing more than just putting pretzels where my mouth is.
And I made Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream.
Possibly you were under the impression that pretzels were to be tipped into a bowl and eaten absent-mindedly till all that rock salt and mouth-drying crispness makes you gaspingly thirsty? Well, that's still a reasonable use for them, but in a move that seems unsurprising in hindsight (I see you, chocolate dipped potato crisps) they're propelled into a whole other stratosphere of deliciousness by the presence of sugar. And while they're part of the cracker family more or less, something very specific about the dense crunchy texture and intense saltiness and rich, slightly malty (I think?) flavour makes pretzels my food of choice for this. Also, they have a cool shape. No mere circle they.
This is going to sound like a stupid thing to say on my own blog (well, considering some of the things I've said here, maybe a stupider thing), but this probably isn't the very best pretzel ice cream out there. I could make one that's more technical and involves a lot more steps and ingredients. It would be superior to this one - but this one you can make in about ten minutes. I tried making a more complicated one first and screwed it up every step of the way - overboiling the sugar, burning the pretzels - and once I'd calmed down from the waste of ingredients and significant dent to my self-esteem, I wanted to try again but make it as simple as possible, to put as few hurdles as possible between you and the finished product. And here it is. And it's incredible.
A recipe by myself.
I'd like to point out while this is an original recipe it's not an original concept: a brief perusal of Pinterest's woeful search function will bring up a squillion recipes for this, but for what it's worth, I didn't look at any of them. Just went with my instincts. Which will sometimes lead me astray, but not with ice cream. I'd also like to acknowledge the mighty Christina Tosi of the Momofuku restaurant empire, whose genius pretzel-milk infusion may well have kicked off this resurgence in the first place. I can't say for sure, but I do know researching it would make me really hungry.
1 1/2 cups pretzels
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons sugar
500ml (2 cups) cream
4 tablespoons brown sugar
In a decent-sized pot or pan, heat up the butter and the 3 tablespoons of sugar. Don't stir, just let it slowly dissolve and melt and bubble up. Once the mixture starts to turn an amber, whisky-ish colour, remove it from the heat and tip in the pretzels. Stir quickly to coat them, then tip them out onto a piece of baking paper on a baking tray. Scrape out as much syrup as possible onto them, then let them cool a little.
Whisk the cream with the brown sugar till thickened significantly but not actually whipped - still liquidy but thick enough to leave a hint of a trailing line behind the whisk when you move it through the cream.
Using a large knife, roughly chop the sugary pretzels into shards and fold it into the cream. Scrape the lot into a loaf tin or container of roughly a litre. Freeze, without stirring.
If like me, you're the boundlessly instagrammin' kind, I recommend reserving a few of the choicest, shiniest caramelised pretzels for decoration as I did here. Also their extra crunch is welcome initially. After a day or so, the ice cream absorbs more of the caramel and the salt, and just gets better and better.
If you've never encountered this combination before I understand your suspicion. Beer accompaniments in cream? What now? But be not scared of this. Between the inseparable excellence of caramel and salt together, the roasty flavour that the pretzels bring, and their soft crunch as they slowly disintegrate into the frozen cream, it's not so much delicious as a head rush in every spoonful.
On Saturday night myself and some other good friends went to see Cat Power at the Town Hall. It's partly experience and partly my curmudgeon tendencies but I always set myself up for a fall with live music - there are just so many variables that can go wrong. Being short, I am sighingly prepared to see nothing (like - full circle! - when I barely saw Alanis Morrissette at the Supertop in 1996.) Being nervous, I anticipate seething, punchy crowds. The artist will be late. They'll be grumpy. I'll get tired. Someone will spill cheap beer on me. And so on. But Cat Power's show was one of the most beautiful that I've ever had the luck to be at - the kind of show where you turn to the friend next to you and do that "increduluous eye contact shaking the head what is even happening" kind of face. She was powerful, generous, hilarious, charming. Oh my gosh I sound so earnest right now (powerful?) but truly - she continuously stalked the stage from left to right so that everyone got to see her, she threw flowers at the audience (including one up to the balcony, where it calmly sailed upwards into the hand of opening act Watercolours, as if by magic) and her voice, complemented by that of her backup singers, was as warm and scratchy like a soft wooly jumper as ever. I, um, may have cried a little. Very earnestly.
This is Tim's instagram. Hold your seething, we weren't standing there with our phones up the whole time blocking everyone's view - she was just so close that it was impossible not to hastily snap a photo for remembrance. I'm one of you, I hate those people too!
PS: I tried making pretzel-fried chicken too. What I ended up with wasn't quite right, but the shadow of perfection was there. And let me exaggeratedly pretend-heroically assure you, I will make so much fried chicken till I get it right.
______________________________________________________________________Title: Sondheim's I'm Still Here. I like Eartha Kitt's version best. Actually I just like Eartha Kitt best.
Someone recently asked if I'd heard much Nina Nastasia, and I was all, of course, I went through a stage of listening to John Peel compilations. But I was compelled to listen anew, especially when I saw she has a song called Counting Up Your Bones. It's as good as its title promises.
Brand New Key, Melanie Safka. This song was played on Saturday night by a friend who clearly has exceptional taste in music as I'm now a bit obsessed with it. Don't let the fact that Wikipedia describes it as a "novelty hit in 1970-71" put you off.
Ever ready to be obsessed with a song, another friend introduced me to another new tune to adore to pieces: Mountain Man, Play It Right. Why doesn't everyone sing in three part harmony?
Next time: Probably another I Should Tell You interview. Which means it will be Friday! Best.