On the Bookshelf: David Leibovitz’s The Perfect Scoop

I’ve never met David Lebovitz, but every time I look over at my bookcase and see his ice cream bible, “The Perfect Scoop”, I feel like we’ve gone through something together and come out the other side.

I should mention at this point that as much as anyone can “love” a food, I love ice cream. The childhood trips to Swensen’s ice cream parlor probably started it all, I check for sales on Haagen Dazs like shoppers check for markdowns at Filene’s. When I have a few extra dollars in my wallet, I buy the odd pint of Moorenko’s. A trip to Boston always includes a scoop at Toscanini’s. And I still remember the taste of raspberry gelato at a small shop in Venice, which ruined me completely. Don’t tell me it’s only good in summer months— any time of year is good for ice cream.

My own imperfect scoop of creme fraiche ice cream.

When the book came out in March 2007, it would have been an extravagance to purchase a $50 ice cream maker, cartons of cream and whole milk, saffron threads, chunks of Caillebaut.  But sweet, icy nirvana was in reach this winter when, birthday gift card in hand, I picked out a bright red Cuisinart ICE-20R. After, I headed to the book store to get a copy of “The Perfect Scoop”.

And three hours later I came home empty handed. It’s not that the book wasn’t available, but that a lot of folks practice what the Japanese call “tachiyomi” (tah-chee-you-mi)— the fine art of reading a book while standing in a book store. There were a lot of well thumbed, well loved copies of Lebovitz’s book floating around. I like my new books new, so I ordered a copy online.

Several days later I raced home to find a box from the book store, ripped it open and found a pristine copy. That had been thoughtfully dipped in a puddle of thick, black goop.

Over the next few weeks I combed the book stores, and the (entirely sympathetic) manager at my local ordered six more copies and said he’d alert me if he found one that looked good. Every book was damaged or warped or water stained or looked like it already belonged to some very happy home cook. Finally, over a month after the first order was placed, I got a phone call from my local that a new copy had been found.

The book sits on my dining room table. It’s only been a few days, but the cover boasts a light crust of sugar from my first attempt at making a custard base. There are at least 20 sticky plastic flags on various pages with recipes I want to try— speculoos, peppermint patties, orange szechuan pepper ice cream, tartufi. There’s a bit of a water stain on the page with the crème fraiche recipe on it.

The book is, without a doubt, mine. Of course, I thank Mr. Lebovitz for writing it.


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