I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Yet one ice cream enthusiast asks, should we?! Spoiler alert: Her answer is a resounding yes…for what we think are all the right reasons.
Fact: Most of us would do well to incorporate a little more moderation in various aspects of life. Ice cream included. And yet navigating that space in between overdoing it and depriving ourselves can sometimes be, well, tricky. It’s not that there isn’t an abundance of outside wisdom at the ready to help justify whatever place we choose along that slippery slope in a given moment. It’s that it really comes down to each of us eventually understanding and owning what works for us. Here to remind us that authenticity sometimes requires a little soul-searching, even when it comes to the topic of ice cream, is baker, cookbook author, and food stylist Samantha Seneviratne in this excerpt from her most recent cookbook, The Joys of Baking.–LC Editors
Completely by accident, I bought the large-print version of The Book of Joy, a guide to finding lasting happiness co-written by the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. Somehow the large print makes reading it even more joyful. The trees outside the open window have finally popped green, the breeze is delicious, and I’m sitting on the couch letting the big, soft words wash over me. My eyes are practically slurping up the pages.
Yet as much as I admire the authors, I can’t agree with everything in their book. I mean, I definitely see the wisdom in learning to accept pain. Been there. And I chuckle with recognition when I read the very succinct and by-now-obvious-to-me point that dejection in the face of hardship is a waste of time. If something can be done, do it and stop being unhappy. I’m with you guys so far, making sense of the difficult stuff.
What gives me pause is the way they talk about pleasure. According to these wisest men, temporary enjoyment can come through the senses, but it’s only fleeting, not the source of permanent satisfaction. But I have to wonder: Can’t those little moments build into something larger? Suffering is inevitable, certainly, but life is equally filled with moments of pleasure, if you know how to see them and let them in. So I, for one, choose to remain open to the possibility of cumulative sensory joy. Sometimes it’s all you’ve got.
Consider food, as I love to do. The Dalai Lama suggests that we should eat for nourishment, without attachment and without greed. That sounds very noble and high-minded, but why must we deny the animal and earthly pleasure of food and eating? Your Holiness, have you ever ridden your bike, orange robes flapping in the wind, to get an ice-cream cone at the local dairy farm on a warm summer evening? Have you stood outside as the sun goes down, letting the ice cream melt and soften, sweetness and cream cooling your lips and tongue, while the aroma of warm, freshly cut grass fills your nostrils and your heart?
The point is not that I love ice cream (though I do), and I’m no more a hedonist than is anyone else who makes desserts for a living. It’s not even the ice cream itself that matters, but the way it shows you how damn lucky you are to be alive.
If desire is the root of suffering, as Buddha says, then maybe digging deeper into smaller, attainable pleasures makes some sense as a way of life. I think of pleasurable moments as bricks. One brick is being able to make enough congee for both me and my exhausted and hungry girlfriend who just had a baby. Another brick is when a beloved friend comes over for tea and cookies and wraps her arms around me tightly and unexpectedly. Another brick is the greasy hot hand-pulled noodles I devoured alone at Xian Famous Foods. With each brick, I work at building a world I love to live in.