Monday, August 13, 2012

The Body Electric: Basil Pine Nut Praline Ice Cream

O my body! I dare not desert the likes of you in other men and women, nor the likes of the parts of you,
I believe the likes of you are to stand or fall with the likes of the soul, (and that they are the soul,)
I believe the likes of you shall stand or fall with my poems, and that they are my poems[.]
                                                                     -- Walt Whitman, "I Sing the Body Electric"

My friend's heart turns one this month.  Actually, I guess it really turns 61, or something close to that, but it will have been his heart for a year.  And to look at him, you'd never know he had a heart transplant.  It's astounding.  He is astounding.

Before the transplant, he was a runner and a cyclist, one of the healthiest people I know, doing half marathons without blinking and riding centuries regularly on the weekends.  He didn't smoke or drink.  He cooked for his family from their organic co-op vegetable share, and fed them (much to his Southerner wife's disappointment, sometimes) a mostly plant-based diet.  When he was rushed to the ER for what they thought was asthma, they discovered that his heart had been operating at 6% of its capacity for quite some time; it was heavily scarred, and he'd been overcompensating.  It was a blow to all of us: he was our age, had two young children, was a fabulous stay at home dad.  How could this happen to someone like him?

His hospital stay was a long haul, involving medications, multiple surgeries with balloons, until they finally decided to move forward with the transplant.  Then an infection, and more surgery.  We prayed a lot.  We weren't sure he was going to live.  I visited his wife at the hospital, trying to make her feel better; often, she made me feel better.  Her courage was humbling.  I organized a meal train for them, doing the only thing I knew how: feeding them and anyone else who came to stay with the kids.

My friend pulled through, came home shortly after the hurricane that left his family without power or water for two weeks, and slowly, one day at a time, began to look more like himself again.  He was a walking miracle to me.  When I started to see him regularly at the Y, I knew that he was on his way to a full recovery.  Seeing him made my heart happy; everything about him exuded LIFE. 

This weekend, my friend ran his first 5K since the transplant: in his birthday suit.  (And I'm sure he won't mind me posting that information, as long as I'm not posting pictures.)  He's not a nudist, but he loves his body.  And I think that this year, this race, this first race since his transplant, was a reason for him to celebrate every inch of his being.  I respect him, not just for running in the Moonshine race (along with the 70 or so other runners who also participated in this 5K, yes it's an official event, and not even on a college campus!), but for genuinely appreciating the body he was given, and the body he was gifted when he got his new heart.

How many times have I hated my body for what it couldn't do, for what it did, for what it looked like, for what it didn't look like?  How about you?

Today, with my friend, I sing the body electric.

Basil Pine Nut Praline Ice Cream
(adapted from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home)
Basil and pine nuts are both known aphrodesiacs (from the Greek Aphrodite, goddess of love, desired by all men). Give your body a little love.

2 c. whole milk
1 T. plus 1 t cornstarch
3 T. cream cheese softened
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. sugar
2 T. light corn syrup
1 large handful fresh basil leaves cut to small pieces
1/3 c. honey nut pralines (see below)

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl to make a smooth slurry.Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combine the remaining milk the cream sugar and corn syrup in a 4-quart saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes, Remove from the heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Gradually whisk the hot milk into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the basil. Submerge the mixture partway in the ice bath. Let stand, adding more ice as necessary, until cold, about 30 minutes.

Strain out the basil. Pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, folding in the honey pine nut pralines as you go. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until firm, at least 4 hours.

Honey Nut Pralines

1/2 c. pine nuts, walnuts, black walnuts, or pecans, halved if you prefer smaller bits
2 T. light brown sugar
2 T. honey
1 T. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Combine the nuts with the remaining ingredients in a bowl, tossing to coat.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Stir and bake for another 5 to 6 minutes, stirring twice; the nuts should look bubbly and somewhat dry. Remove from the oven and let cool completely, stirring the nuts every couple of minutes to break them up.
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  1. THAT. IS. AWESOME! Your friend sounds like a really cool dude. I'm so glad he's doing so well. Thanks for sharing the good news.

  2. Your friend is an inspiration to us all. I'm so happy to hear that he has recovered so well.

    And basil pine nut praline...OMG.

  3. What a beautiful, inspiring story. So very happy for your friend and his family. Thinking about your post on the choose your own adventure stories - sounds like he got the ending where he had the sword!

  4. Fabulous recipe and an even more fabulous story. I got chills reading it.

    BTW, those boots you like...about $100.

  5. What a wonderful story! A real-life miracle of modern medicine. (And nice for me to read today, when I learned yesterday that my dad is getting a valve replacement next month.)

  6. So amazing! Congrats to your friend and he certainly earned the right to run naked!

  7. Congrats to your friend on his amazing recovery and naked ambition to embrace life! Hehe. That's a really cool story.

    Basil and ice cream? Sign me up! (hold the pralines).

  8. WOW what an amazing friend and story! So glad he is doing so well and love how he ran in his birthday suit!

  9. What an incredible story & also what an amazing perspective it gives. Your so right that we so often fail to appreciate the things our bodies are able to do for us. Makes me so thankful & a reminder of how things can change in a blink of an eye!
    Your friend sounds incredibly inspiring, beautiful story. Thank you for sharing & reminding us of how precious this life we have is!

  10. Wow. What an incredible story. Thank you for sharing about your friend and his family. He sounds like an awesome guy. Love that he ran a 5K in the buff! Good for him!

    This line of your post really moved me:

    "I visited his wife at the hospital, trying to make her feel better; often, she made me feel better. Her courage was humbling."

    It reminds me of the observation that Lori made in the post she is reflecting on this week for Time Warp Tuesday in which she shares some insights about death and dying after her MIL's passing. Lori talked about how those who are going through difficult times often find it comforting to comfort. That has been my experience too and struck me when I read your post tonight.

    Please sign me up for Lori's version of your ice cream too. Sounds yummy!

  11. Your friend sounds rad. Truly.

    Basil ICE CREAM!!! I want to try this!


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