I distinctly remember the first time I ever tasted a plum. I was 21, and it was a cold, probably snowy day in Logan, UT. I remember being worried that day. Worried, and rushed. Come to think of it, that day must have been like every other day during the early spring of 2010, when the stresses and anxieties of life were wrecking havoc on my attempt to make it through junior year of college.
It was a Wednesday, I think, and I was in a dark office. Jessica’s office, to be precise. She was staring at me and not saying a word, allowing a silence others could only label as “awkward” to hang between us. It was never an awkward silence with her though, it was a frustrating silence. She wasn’t the first therapist who I had frustrated with my stubborn and recalcitrant habits, and chances are, she wouldn’t be the last.
I remember that day being particularly frustrating. I’m quite sure I had unleashed a torrential hail of thoughts and emotions within the first few minutes of entering her office, and having exhausted herself in tough-guy mode with me the prior few weeks, she could see I needed a break. Mostly, she could see I just needed rest.
Running between classes and meetings, it was customary for me to eat lunch while we met. I had a plum that day, just like I had a plum most days. I used to grab them two or three at a time from the dining halls, and would typically throw them into a nightly oatmeal concoction to warm me on those dark and cold Utah nights. How they got them so out of season I never knew, but I’d go through them like M&M’s. But even though I had eaten them many times before, I had never truly tasted one.
That was until Jessica decided to use my plum as the focus for one of her calming exercises. I swear, I used to hate those things. Chances are, if you’ve ever seen a therapist, you’ve probably hated them to. It’s that ”close your eyes” or “breath in” kind of mumbo jumbo that you’d expect from a yoga class, not a medical professional who you’re paying to help unscrew-up your life. Still, for the sake of both our collective sanities in that dark, expressionless office, I decided to play along.
And as I slowly took a bite from my plum, concentrating on the crisp and waxy flesh, the juicy, sweet interior, and the floral, bright flavors, I suddenly understood the words that Jessica was saying. It’s giving you strength. Nourishing your body.
I flash forward two and a half years. I’m grocery shopping for my family, and holding a plum in my hand. I close my eyes, embracing the summer bounty while transporting my senses through space and time.
I breath in, then breath out. My body and my mind are still in need of nourishment. A year away from Logan and I yearn for something to connect me with the people of the one place which ever really embraced me, and the one town in which I could see myself spending the rest of my life. I see Jessica’s blond hair in that darkened office, a look on concern on her face. I see my own detached self, shivering in the springtime thaw, unkept, unshaven as usual. And when I open my eyes, here and now, there and then, I see a plum.
I ended up buying several pounds of plums at Safeway the other day, and I could have eaten them one by one in perfect concentration and awareness of my surroundings, just like Jessica had led me to do two and a half years ago. Instead, however, I decided to move on. To show myself that I can do more when given a plum than just eat it mindlessly. Paying attention to the taste, to the source, and to the blessing of the bounty and nourishment the humble little purple fruit gives, I decided to make Grilled Plum Frozen Yogurt.
I started by breaking out a grill pan and heating up to medium high. After brushing the plum halves with a little melted butter and honey I grilled them cut-side down for four or five minutes, or until the surface sugars began to caramalize. I then grilled them another two to three minutes on the round side before transferring them to a blender with whole milk yogurt, lemon juice, and orange rind (I had no lemons(. I added 1/4 cup sugar to the mixture before blending, then transferred the blended mixture to my ice cream maker and froze for 20 minutes. Following the churning, I allowed the mixture to set in the freezer for another four or five hours, after which it reached a true frozen yogurt consistancy.
I’m not going to lie and say this was some artisan frozen yogurt. While my family loved it, I was a bit harder on myself, recognizing a distractingly intense vanilla extract flavor. Likewise, I could have settled for a few more tablespoons of honey added after grilling, or upped the sugar to a half or three-fourths a cup. Still, for only the third time in my life I’ve used the ice cream machine I’ve long had stored in my family’s basement, I’d say it was a worthy attempt, and one, I think, which Jessica would smile at.
Grilled Plum Frozen Yogurt
6-8 plums, pitted and halved
2 Tablespoon honey, divided
1/2 Tablespoon melted butter
2 Cups (16 ounces) whole milk yogurt
1/2 Cup of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Lemon Juice, to taste
Grated Lemon Zest
Directions: Heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat. Meanwhile, brush plum halves with melted butter and 1 Tablespoon honey, and grill 3-4 minutes per side, until tender. Combine Yogurt with the remaining ingredients in a food processor or blender, adding the plum halves when finished grilling. Blend until smooth, then transfer entire mixture to an ice cream machine and freeze
Food for Thought: Anyone out there with their own ice cream maker? What ice cream or frozen yogurt flavors would you make and why?