Seeing as this is a post that involves CHERRIES, ICE CREAM, and PEPPERMINT, I really wish it could be more fun, bouncy, and carefree. I mean, who doesn’t get a carefree feeling when thinking about stuff like cherries? And ice cream?? And peppermint??? It’s like those things somehow hone in those rare moments right in the beginning of the summer, when your nose is excited by all the fresh scents around you and your skin welcomes the constant warmth of the sun, but it’s still before it’s become “too much” and everyone is lethargic from the heat and all you can smell is B.O.
I wish I could do a lighthearted post like that… But I can’t.
There is something we need to talk about. It’s called Live and Let Live.
A few weeks ago, I went with my husband to the Western Wall (AKA The Wailing Wall) in the beautiful Old City of Jerusalem. The Wall is a national monument, and also a somewhat conflicted place, religiously speaking. Physically, the Wall is one of the closest things left standing from where the Old Temple was, so you can understand its importance to Judaism.
However, this does not mean that ultra-religious people have some kind of an ownership over it, which is exactly what it felt like for me on that day. We went through security, and when I was just about to come out on the other side, a young woman wearing the same uniform vest as the security guards handed me a shawl.
As in, to cover up. As in, because I wasn’t dressed modestly enough.
Now, my personal dress code in the past few years has evolved plenty, and I personally think it is on the modest side rather than revealing and promiscuous. I definitely have a very unique flair and there is always something playful and flirtatious about my outfits, but I have looooooong since outrgown my “slutty-chic” phase.
That’s why I was so taken aback when she handed me that ugly, navy blue, cheap-looking and -feeling shawl (more like poncho). So taken aback, in fact, that I just took it from her and kept walking. A few seconds later I snapped back to what was happening, handed the thing to Mr. Graceful, and asked him to give it back to her.
A few minutes had passed, and I was still in contemplative shock. That gesture was hugely offensive to me, not only because I thought my clothing was fairly respectful of the place I was in, but also because WHERE DOES SHE GET THE NERVE?! And why on earth does she work for the security company? Does someone really think it’s a necessity to keep everyone safe and sound from my upper arms? And who is paying for all this? Is this where my tax money is going? To fund people to force girls to cover up???
And most of all, I was mad at myself – that I didn’t talk back to her immediately, that I just took that ugly trashbag of a shawl, and later gave it to my husband to give back… That despite having principles and being a strong-willed and -minded woman, my first instinct was still to be a good girl and do what I’m told.
As we stepped off to the shade of one of the alleys leading away from the site, I broke down and started crying. Sobbing. Bawling. Mr. Graceful put his big strong arms around me and let me bury my face in his chest, the best place to go when I want to hide from the world. We turned back around because friends were waiting for us on the other end and I didn’t want them to see me so broken… And as we stepped back out into the main ground of the Western Wall, another girl in the same security company’s uniform came up to me with a basket full of ugly shawls, and righteously handed me one of them.
This time, however, I was ready for her. She would not take me by surprise. As she handed me the humiliating rag, my tear ducts obediently stopped leaking, and I looked at her fiercely through the watery screen that was rapidly clearing.
“No,” I said to her, my voice still a bit quivery.
“But you need to wear it,” she started.
“No, thank you,” I said even more fiercely, steadying my voice. She opened her mouth once more, and this time I used my fiercest, firmest, steadiest voice and said calmly, “Thank you – NO.”
That’s when she realized she is probably not getting paid enough by my tax Shekels to really want to get involved with a lady who is clearly serious about NOT taking that shawl from her. So she just turned around and let me be.
I was so much happier that I had stood up to the bullies of the playground that is the Western Wall, but still bothered that this was actually happening in Israel of 2013.
Obviously there needs to be some sort of a dress code for a place which is sensitive to many people. But once you start setting actual, specific guidelines such as exactly how far below the knee your skirt should go, you’ve got yourself a problem – because it opens the door for people to keep changing the standards, making them stricter and stricter. Which is exactly what happened with the Western Wall.
Mr. Graceful pointed out that if I were going as a tourist to some site that was considered a place of worship for many, and asked to conform to their “respect” standards, I wouldn’t mind it so much. He had a good point. For example, if I were going to the Taj Mahal and asked to cover up, I probably wouldn’t be offended at all (although I would probably feel like a huge idiot for not thinking about it myself).
But frankly – and with all my love to India and the Taj Mahal – I don’t actually give a damn about it. I would be a tourist at the Taj Mahal – it’s not mine. The Wall is mine. And it is a national heritage site right alongside being a religious site. And both the nation and the religion are mine, as well. So it really bothers me when someone capitalizes on those things that actually belong to me, my family and friends, and everyone else living here.
And that’s why, even though this ice-cream is certainly very, very happy – I am still not jumping for joy.
I just hope that when I have a daughter, I can teach her to stand up to bullies – but that she won’t encounter these bullies in the form of government-subsidized, self-righteous women in a place that will undoubtedly be so important to her.
Estimated Time: 20 minutes prep + 5 hour freeze (less if using pre-frozen bananas)
Kosher Classification: neutral
8 very ripe bananas
1 cup + 2 Tbs. raw tahini (or other seed/nut butter)
3 cups cherries
BIG handful of mint leaves
1-3 tsp peppermint extract (depends on the potency of your brand)
When making ice cream from bananas, it’s a good idea to first prepare everything that will go in the ice cream, and only then blend up the bananas. Banana puree sitting out in the kitchen will brown, and while there is nothing wrong with that – it’s not too pretty.
So we begin by pitting the cherries. If you have a cherry pitter or have discovered your own magical way for pitting cherries, feel free to skip my next rambling.
You know how sometimes, you see something lovely on Pinterest and just HAVE to give it a try? And how most times, it comes out looking/tasting FAR from what was visually promised? Well, I had seen this cherry-pitting method on several pins, and I was pretty skeptic that it would actually work.
But I had to give it a try anyway, and lo and behold – it actually works! It’s not so fast but it’s definitely quicker (and less wasteful) than cutting around the pit. I think for the once-a-year that I use cherries, this is definitely more justified than actually buying a cherry pitter (it’s not so much the money as it is the very harsh screening I have to do before bringing anything that takes up space into our tiny kitchen).
Basically, you put the cherry on the top of an empty glass bottle, and then while holding it down, poke the pit out with something of an appropriate size (Pinterest said chopsticks, but I just used the thin end of my handheld mixer’s whisks).
The pits end up in the bottle, and you end up with a bowl of pitted cherries.
Extra-Worried Jewish-Mother Side-Note: PLEASE be very careful about not leaving in pits. Take the extra two seconds to check that the pit was actually successfully removed before tossing it in the pitted-cherry bowl. You could chip your teeth on that stuff.
Coarsely chop the cherries and set aside. (Glass cutting boards do not photograph very well, but there was no way I was going to stain my wooden one for this).
Next, chop the mint up finely. You want to get to a point where it’s almost minced, but not quite. The pieces can (and should) be a little bigger than minced.
Now for the fun part: Blending the bananas. If you have a food processor, you can use pre-frozen bananas. Just chop them into smaller pieces so that you don’t kill it. If you don’t have one, you can use a hand-held blender with bananas which are NOT frozen. That is what I did for this post, for reasons which I prefer not to talk about right now that may or may not involve me trying to make industrial amounts of almond butter in my little food-processor.
I have a bad experience with hand-held blenders making stuff splatter all over the place (mostly on me) when blending in wide bowls, so I decided to be wise and put the bananas in jug. I chose a jug with a pretty big volume but with a neck just wide enough to put the blender through, and… No splatter! Also, because the bananas were all in one (relatively) small place, they blended fairly quickly and without lumps.
After the bananas have turned into a completely smooth puree, add the tahini and alternate blending it in and just mixing with the blender while it’s off.
Once that’s smooth, add the peppermint extract. How much you add will depend on the potency of the brand you use, and also on how pepperminty you like your ice cream. Just remember that once it’s frozen, the flavors tend to dull a bit. A good rule of thumb is to add until it tastes just minty enough before freezing, and then add another 1/2 teaspoon.
Add the mint and cherries and mix them in.
At this point, the ice cream can be poured into a container and put in the freezer. I was making this as dessert for a lunch we were invited to, and the company included six hungry men. I don’t know why, but all the guys I know tend to be much more picky about food than the girls. Looking down at the ice-cream I had made, I suddenly felt like it wasn’t “pretty enough”. Actually, it kind of looked like a huge tub of tahini salad with chopped parsley.
So I went ahead and made it pink, by blending some cooked beet into it until it looked “pretty enough”. You really don’t taste the beets and I often use them as natural food coloring. I personally think grayish-white tahini salad is slightly more masculine than pink cherry ice-cream, but whatever. I am not in the position to judge anyone! You can also just add some food coloring, if that’s how you roll. Next time I think I will try to make it green – with spinach!
Freeze the ice-cream, breaking it up every two hours or so until it is all frozen.
Before serving, take it out of the freezer so it can soften up. If you can, it’s best to keep it in a glass container, as that helps it soften faster when taken out.
*A note for the picky: Yes, it does taste slightly of bananas.*
- Pit 3 cups cherries using your method of choice.
- Wash, dry, and finely chop a big handful of mint leaves.
- Blend 8 very ripe bananas until smooth.
- Add 1 cup plus 2 Tbs. raw tahini and blend again until smooth.
- Add 1-3 tsp peppermint extract (depending on the potency of your brand) and mix well.
- Add cherries and mint, and freeze, breaking up the ice cream every 2 hours or so.