But unfortunately, it's now the work week, and like the hangover from a big night out, my freezer now presents a serious danger: How do I avoid eating the remains of four quarts of ice cream over the next couple of days?
Generally speaking, my first line of defense against junk food binging* is 'Don't buy it'. This works well for me, since I do the food shopping, and I know that if I have anything like a sleeve of Oreos in the house, it won't last the night. But the 'Dont buy it' defense doesn't really work for homemade ice cream. 'Dont make it'? I guess, but while I do take breaks for short periods, that's not a good long-term strategy.
Dan Ariely has a suggestion. Ariely is a behavioral economist at Duke, and author of a couple of books (check out his Amazon page). He wrote a guest post on Tim Ferriss' blog on something called 'ego depletion'.
(I'll take a shot here at describing the concept, but you're much better off just reading the article. Really.. go read it). Ego depletion is the idea that you start each day with a bank account of decision 'points'. As you make decisions, both large and small, that bank accounts is reduced. Deciding between the red shirt and blue shirt to wear to work may cost only 1 point. Deciding not to skip the gym after work might be 20 points. And so forth. After the day's account is empty, your ability to make decisions is significantly impaired. And so when you get home to make dinner, and you see four quarts of ice cream in the freezer, the question of 'Should I make dinner or just eat a lot of ice cream?' is more likely to be answered in favor of the ice cream.
(Seriously, read the article, Ariely does a much better job than I did. Click here for the article.)
I found this idea fascinating, because it helps us understand how we make decisions (consciously or not), and can provide some insight into how to avoid devouring a quart of chocolate hazelnut ice cream (or whatever your weakness is) while sitting on the couch watching basketball (I would call out Kirby here, but he knows that I've done the same thing). And I would add that there's nothing wrong with the occasional binge, but being aware of why you do this is better than being unaware.
As Ariely says in the article,
The key here is planning the indulgence rather than waiting until you have absolutely nothing left in the tank. It’s in the latter moments of desperation that you throw yourself on the couch with the whole pint of ice cream, not even making a pretense of portion control, and go to town while watching your favorite tv show.
If you're interested in more on this, Brian Wansink (a professor at Cornell's Food Lab .. how cool a place is that) wrote Mindless Eating, which goes into much greater depth, with a focus on food (for example, why do we sit at a movie theater, mindlessly shoving handfuls of stale, over-buttered popcorn into our pie holes).
The bottom line here is not that you should stop eating junk food. You're not going to. But for those of us, like me, who have serious control problems around food, it can only be helpful to understand better how and why we behave as we do.
And now, with the public service announcement out of the way, here's an ice cream recipe.
Ginger Ice Cream, adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
- 3 ounces peeled fresh ginger
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cups sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- Cut the ginger into thin slices. Add the sliced ginger to a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Let it cook for two minutes, then drain the ginger (this is called 'blanching').
- Add the milk, 1 cup of the cream, the sugar, and the salt, and heat until the mixture is warm. Cover the saucepan, remove it from the heat, and let the ginger steep for an hour.
- Remove the ginger from the milk mixture (you can eat it, it's pretty good), and make a custard with the milk mixture and the egg yolks.
- Put the remaining 1 cup of cream in a medium bowl, and pour the custard into that bowl and mix. From there, follow the usual steps (chill and churn, etc).
- You can add chopped candied ginger, but we had trouble chopped it into really small pieces, and I didn't think it froze that well.
** This touches on capital N "Nutrition". I'm happy to get into a big discussion on this, but I'm not sure an ice cream blog is the place for it. If you have questions, let me know.