Orange-Cardamom Ice Cream Sundae and a Book Deal

I have a little story to tell you.

It starts 16 months ago when I get a call from a literary agent I queried about my novel. We talk on the phone for over an hour. She’ll read my novel, but she’s most interested in this blog of mine. By the end of the call, we’ve decided I’m going to start working on a book proposal for a food memoir. I’m excited. I get right to work that very afternoon.
Almost a year later, my mom is visiting us. Though it's technically fall, it’s hot in Los Angeles. We go to Macy’s because Mom has “Macy’s money,” which is what Mom calls her end-of-year rewards cash she gets from using her Macy’s credit card. She wants to buy me something.  I’m up for it. We decide on the ice cream attachment for my stand mixer.

The next morning, we pick up heavy cream, milk, and some fresh berries. We’re going to make blackberry ice cream. It’s going to be great—perfect for late September. Only we don’t quite get to it. The next morning, Mom tells me that she’s pretty sure I’ll need to put the freeze bowl in the freezer for a few hours before we make our ice cream. So, I open the box and read the directions, which tells me that yes, the freeze bowl needs a bare minimum of 15 hours in the freezer before one can even think of making ice cream. Mom’s leaving the following afternoon. We shrug our shoulders, eat the berries, and decide that I’ll have to make my ice cream without her.

I make space in the freezer for the bowl so that next time I’ll be ready.
I’m reading Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies. I was lured in by the cover, and then when I flipped it around, I found a blurb on the back written by one of my past professors (now a literary superstar), John Jeremiah Sullivan. This sentence of his is what sold me: “It’s about being very, very good at something, when you want to be great.”

In it, Shapton writes about her career as a swimmer, which can be crassly summed up by saying she was a two-time Canadian Olympic trials attendee though never an actual Olympian.

In one section, she writes about an early morning pre-swim-practice ritual (and by early morning, I mean that during this time period of her training, her alarm goes off at 4:25am). She’s a teenager and sometimes, as she waited for her mom to come downstairs, she made something called a ‘muffin in a mug,’ which she describes as “Quaker instant bran muffin mix, half a cup of milk, stirred, nuked for two minutes, and then eaten with a spoon.”

But she didn’t set the microwave for two minutes. Instead, she set it for 1:11:00, the time she wants to swim “the SC 100m breaststroke in 1987.” She closes her eyes and imagines the starting block so that when she presses the start button, she is also diving into the water. Eyes shut, she envisions the entire race, each stroke. She writes: “Halfway down the pool on my final length I hear sharp beeping and open my eyes—the microwave is flashing 00:00:00. Too slow by about five seconds.”

At the 1992 trials, she finishes at 1:17:52, in thirty-sixth place.
If you are familiar with the KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment, you know that the freeze bowl takes up a lot of space in the freezer. There are times, like say over the holidays, when it would have been much easier to just take the freeze bowl out. After all, who wants to make ice cream in the winter? Even a Los Angeles winter. (Note: there have been two mornings when I was taking Mavis out where I slipped on an icy patch at the end of our deck.) (Double note: I hope that the good citizens of the world whose winter includes lots of snow can see the previous note as an example to the simple fact that it does get relatively cold here and not that we Angelenos have it rough in any way shape or form (though there is all that traffic).)

But I can’t take the freeze bowl out because damnit I’m going to make ice cream at some point and I need the freeze bowl to be ready.
When my book proposal is finally sent out into the world of editors and publishersand once it’s out, it’s out, no turning back—I pick up my old standby, Anne Lamotte’s Bird by Bird and reread the chapter called “Publication.”

This is the part I latch onto: “Hours later, I remembered that if I wasn’t enough before being asked to participate in this prestigious event, then participating wasn’t going to make me enough. Being enough was going to have to be an inside job.”
I guess I’m telling you all this because in this world the main focus seems to be on results when the vast majority of our time is spent in process, in the freezer for five months, or in the pool before 6am, or at one’s computer next to a sleeping dog struggling to type up your probably non-noteworthy and poorly-written thoughts and ideas. I’m also telling you all of this because now I am faced with the task of actually writing this thing. So while there’s occasion for celebration, there’s also occasion for more work.

But for the moment, let’s celebrate! Thanks to you people who have been reading this blog for all these years and who have encouraged me to keep going, I managed to sell my book proposal to the Hachette Book Group / Grand Central Publishing, and I couldn’t be happier about it. So before I get to work writing it, let’s eat sundaes! (I mean, c’mon, when’s the last time you made yourself a sundae?)
Orange-Cardamom Ice Cream via Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
2 tablespoons green cardamom pods
1 3/4 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup 1% or 2% milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 large egg yolks
1 large orange

1. Put the cardamom in a small skillet and put the pan over medium heat. Toast the pods, stirring frequently, until aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool for a minute, then use a sharp knife to coarsely chop the pods.

2. In a heavy nonreactive saucepan, stir together the cardamom, cream, milk, half of the sugar (1/4 cup), and the salt.

3. Put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture just begins to bubble around the edges, remove from the heat and cover the pan. Let steep for 30 minutes, or until the cream mixture has a distinct cardamom flavor. (Taste it to monitor the progress; the mixture will become bitter if oversteeped.)

4. In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks just to break them up, then whisk in the remaining sugar (1/4 cup). Set aside.

5. Uncover the cream mixture and put the pan over medium-high heat. When the mixture approaches a bare simmer, reduce the heat to medium.

6. Carefully scoop out about 1/2 cup of the hot cream mixture and, whisking the eggs constantly, add the cream to the bowl with the egg yolks. Repeat, adding another 1/2 cup of the hot cream to the bowl with the yolks.  Using a heatproof rubber spatula, stir the cream in the saucepan as you slowly pour the egg-and-cream mixture from the bowl into the pan.

7. Cook the mixture carefully over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it is thickened, coats the back of a spatula, and holds a clear path when you run your finger across the spatula, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

8. Strain the base through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean container. Zest the orange over the warm base and stir to combine. Set the container into an ice-water bath, wash your spatula, and use it to stir the base occasionally until it is cool. Remove the container from the ice-water bath, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerat the base for at least two hours or overnight.

9. Freeze in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. While the ice cream is churning, put the container you'll use to store the ice cream into the freezer. Enjoy right away, or for a firmer ice cream, transfer to the chilled container and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Hot Fudge Sauce slightly adapted from Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones
makes about 1 1/4 cups

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup tapioca syrup or corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (about 60%) finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 

1. In a medium nonreactive saucepan, stir together the cream, sugar, cocoa, syrup, and salt. Put the pan over medium-high heat, bring to a boil, and cook just until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from the heat.

2. Stir in the chocolate and the vanilla until the chocolate is melted and the sauce is completely smooth.

Serve right away or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator (it lasts for weeks.) To rewarm, heat in the microwave at half power for a minute or two.
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Matthew said...

I'm sooooooooooo excited for this book! xoxoxo

Rebecca Altman said...


THIs is the best news ever. And I loved this post. Really truly loved it.

Mary Anne said...

Secret's out!!!! Mazel tov. I knew you could do it. I knew you were destined for greatness from day one in the freshman cafeteria. You're truly an inspiration to me. From your #2 fan. xoxoxo

Sara said...

Congrats!!! What a great post (and a great sundae!)

Anonymous said...

First thought when I read the title of this blog post?.... HECK YEAH! Way to go!! Congratulations! Well deserved, can't wait to read the book!

andie said...

What great news and an awesome blog entry. Homemade ice cream is the best, perfect for celebrating!

Jessica said...

What amazing news! Your writing has always moved me and I seriously can't wait to get my copy!

Amelia said...

Congratulations! Get me on the waiting list.

Gina Pascual said...

Hi! I'm a stranger who absolutely loves your blog. Congrats! and thank you!

Neal said...

I love this post. super excited to read the book... Are you done yet?

Amy said...

awesome, thoughtful post. excited for you and the book... and I'm excited to hear about it all along the way on this blog. xx

Sharon Graves said...

Major congrats! Great post, particularly the LA ice patch part. So hard to convey our meteorological perspective properly without getting mocked...

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the book and thank you for sharing your meaningful thoughts as well as a great sundae recipe. Love the sophisticated flavours.

Kata Phusin said...

Congratulations! ~ how beautiful, too, to share the process. "It's about being very, very good when you want to be great" - what wholesome words & very thought provoking, I thought when reading your post: maybe we're our own worst critics at times, because what is "great" - it's using what we already have in the best possible way, which means that it might not comply with preexisting measurements. We have to hold our ground for the measurements to be made for us. Keep on keeping on!

movita beaucoup said...

Congrats! (Enjoy the journey and drink a lot of... well, drink a lot.)

Carmen said...

awesome news. great post. and i am somewhat proud, somewhat ashamed to admit that i make myself sundaes a lot (not as fancy as this one though)

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! I am so proud of you! This was a beautiful post, too.

- Andrea (your SIL)

Magda said...

Congratulations! Good luck and have a great time writing your food memoir. We'll be here reading about your progress and eating sundaes. I have never eaten one before but I'm willing to try.
I too keep my Kitchen Aid ice cream bowl in the freezer all winter long, just in case, but alas I never use it. Not until spring arrives.

allisonfrasereavis said...

Such great news!

Heather said...

I'm a friend of Andrea's and was so excited to hear this fabulous news! Congratulations!!

Michelle Dehaven said...

You rock. Totally rock. Can't wait to read it. Congrats.

amelia said...

Awwwwww, man. You guys are so awesome. I'll try not to let ya down!!

amelia said...

So true. Thanks, Kata!

Stephanie said...

Woohoo! I'm so proud that humor and heart have earned a place in the world of food publishing, thanks to your vision, persistence,quirky upbringing and well...great videographer!

Meaghan said...


Are you going to dedicate the book to gymnastics? I'm actually surprised you didn't weave into this post a gymnastics metaphor about approach vs. landing, honestly. All these years you've been working on your approach to the vault, and the quality of your Khorkina, when the moment most lauded is when you actually stick the landing.

BAM! I am honored to have seen the better part of the entire routine, at least from this vantage point. Go you!

Tiffany said...

I am so relieved that this post had a happy ending, missed Olympians and Anne Lamotte could end badly. Congratulations Amelia. I love the way you tie things together, and I'm sure your book will have no shortage of these joyful connections (I want to say meanderings, but not at all in a negative way).

Eileen said...

I love this sentence and the lesson it contains: "I guess I’m telling you all this because in this world the main focus seems to be on results when the vast majority of our time is spent in process, in the freezer for five months, or in the pool before 6am, or at one’s computer next to a sleeping dog struggling to type up your probably non-noteworthy and poorly-written thoughts and ideas."

Congratulations on the persistence of your process, and may you have fun!

Eileen said...

Congratulations on your book proposal! I definitely hear you on the time spent in process--it gets swept under the rug so easily, when it is actually the real work of the project. Then, when you finish, people ask how you'll celebrate, and you can only shrug your shoulders, because it's only one little part of the huge process. Such a strange and surreal moment. :)

Ashley said...

Hooray! Congrats! First, you're totally right on sundaes, it's been forever since I had (much less made) one. Too long, in fact. So thanks for fixing that problem. Second, I've been trying for over a year to make enough room in my diminutive freezer to even fit my ice cream maker's freezer bowl in. I'll try even harder now. ;)

Elliott Shaffner said...

Dude, right on. I mean, really... RIGHT ON!

keepfeeling said...

Huge congrats, Amelia! I'm so very happy for you and wish you all the best!

Love this blog post so much.


Marsha and Mark said...

Congrats on your book deal. We love your blog and your tips. Way to go!

Anonymous said...

So amazing!! Your writing inspires me to want to write.

Nina Lee said...

Wow such a thoughtful post. Congrats!

Sarah said...

This part: "I guess I’m telling you all this because in this world the main focus seems to be on results when the vast majority of our time is spent in process..."

THIS is where life is happening! It's happening during the results too but...MAN, you're really hitting it on the head there. I'm growing very tired of stressing the "results". I want to be present. That's all. Nothing and Everything.

Have you read Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet?
The section on work recently really inspired me:
" Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.
For if you bake bread with indifference, you bake a bitter bread that feeds but half man's hunger.
And if you grudge the crushing of the grapes, your grudge distils a poison in the wine.
And if you sing though as angels, and love not the singing, you muffle man's ears to the voices of the day and the voices of the night."

May you enjoy every step of this process and thankyou for sharing your life with strangers ; )

The818 said...

So excited for you. Amazing story. Amazing post. Amazing achievement!

LD1 said...


WOW! Wonderful! I can't think of a book that I'm more excited about! Just cannot wait!!! Amazballs!!!!!


sg said...

DUDE! Congratulations to you! I cannot wait! So happy for you!!!

Katherine {eggton} said...


This is the best news since. . . .

Oh wait. Nothing good happens on Downton Abbey anymore.

Katherine {eggton} said...

I love the last line of this--about angels singing. As someone who does not sing like an angel but who totally gets what you're saying, this sentence in particular really spoke to me.

Anna @ The Littlest Anchovy said...

Congratulations Amelia!! I knew this would happen for you - you totally deserve it :)

Daisylee said...

Thanks for your methods to prepare the ice cream.I will bookmark your blog for the regular visit.Keep good work in the blog.

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Emma Arnold said...

Congratulations babe!!!!!!!!! This is so great. I'm going to order the shit out of this book ;)


Rachel @ foodrefuge said...

Congrats, Amelia! You are totally up to the challenge and I will be happy to preorder your book when the time comes!

Ashley Bee said...

This blog post is exactly what I need to hear right now. I'm in the terrible state of mind where I don't think I have the money to actually pursue my dreams. I am getting laid off soon, and I don't know what to do. "Now you can REALLY pursue your dreams!" say my friends. To which I bitterly reply "while my student loans pile up and ruin my credit because I CAN'T PAY THEM? Yeah, sure, follow my dreams. Right."

Pursuing a career in writing is a slow process, but it is possible. Congrats on the book deal, and on always having ice cream at the ready :)

Kimberley said...

Hurrah! Congratulations to you. I love this post, love the swimming analogy, love all the little gems tucked in here, but most of all I love this good news!

amelia said...

You're gonna make me tear up.

amelia said...

Meaghan, you're hilarious!! And thank you for encouraging me even more to work gymnastics into this book. I think I can do it... I mean I did take it pretty seriously until an Achilles injury took me out at age 14. (I could've been a level 9! Who knows?!)

Anonymous said...

Hi Amelia,

I have been reading your blog for a while now and your last post prompted me to comment - I just wanted to say thanks. I (similar to Ashley Bee) am trying to pursue my dream - in my case its working in the environmental conservation space (which is proving really, really hard to get into). At the mo' I am working a super horrible job to support myself whilst I study - not only does your blog brighten my day when my crazy boss is screaming at me (you often make me laugh out loud, much to the confusion of my workmates), but your obvious positivity and love for what you do reminds me to keep my chin up and keep on truckin'...

Hats off to you and big congratulations!


Kara said...

So many things!

1. Congratufreakinlations, sweetpea!
2. Sumanth loves pistachio ice cream - and those cardamoms looked like p-stachios at first. I am a NUT for cardamom, although I always want it to be called cardaMON. Is it the Jamaican in me?
3. Am having a sundae party at work next week. Will tell my whole department we're really celebrating your book sale
4. Hachette is Miriam P's company, no? It's a GREAT one.
5. Congratufreakinlations. I'm SO happy for you and proud of you.
XOXO Infinity,
Kara Bird

Mark and Marsha said...

Big congrats on a well-deserved book deal. Can't wait to sit down with a big dish of orange-cardamom ice cream and read the Bon Appe-BOOK (credit to Andrea Short).

Loretta E. said...

Congrats on the book! I'm sure it's fantastic!

My solution to the freezer dilemma? Two freezers. Seriously!

amelia said...

Bon appe-Book! I love it. Thanks so much for your support!!

Joy said...

So exciting! Congrats congrats!

mamaslittlebabies said...

Woooo Hooooo!!!!!

Joe oliver said...

Well Great work! And I too enjoyed those yummy things last week. Thanks for posting such one.

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Sarah said...

Fantastic, congratulations!! I haven't visited in a while because the new job has sucked my life away, but what great news to return to! An inside job, indeed.

HAILEY said...

Congrats congrats! I'll secretly be proud when you become crazy famous and I was one of those (many) early followers from years past. Your blog is still my favorite food blog to date!

amelia said...

awww, thanks for being there for so long, Hailey!!

amelia said...

Welcome back, Sarah!! And thank youuu!!

Graham Davis said...

Great book Amelia and lovely site as well.

I have started a small scale publishing company www.cookeryclassics.com in order to bring long neglected cookery books back to life as updated editions for iPad.

These are the sort of books that Beryl Patmore from Downton Abbey would have had on her kitchen bookshelf and I would really appreciate your opinion on the three books that we have completed so far. Samples are available to download at iBooks as follows:


I have also started the Cookery Heritage blog to which I hope your readers will contribute. www.cookeryheritage.com


charlotte au chocolat said...

Congrats on the great news! Looking forward to reading your book! Enjoy the process! :)

Bong Mom said...

Congrats on the great news. I am a lurker and though enjoy your writing have never left a comment. This one pushed me to do it. Would love to read it when it is out if it has stuff like "posset" and well "faucet" :-D

Bong Mom said...

BTW I have been working on my book for the last two years (it is now slowly inching towards that glorious end). And though it is being published in India by Harper, it has been a fun but difficult ride. So really really wish you all the best.

Kaitlyn Sage said...

This is the best kind of news. Though I am not much of regular commenter, I am a regular reader, and yours is by far my favorite food blog. You have a terrific voice, and I'm thrilled that I'll get to read your book. Congratulations!

Stephanie said...

YES! CONGRATS! I have to say, not only do I personally find inspiration from the food you make, there are also some days where perhaps the world is going through the same universal struggle, and I find your life insights to be very helpful as I sit in this office of white and think about what to make when i get home.

Can't wait!

Kathryne said...

Congratulations, Amelia! Can't wait to get my hands on a copy of your forthcoming book. Love the analogies you shared in this post.

amelia said...

that's super cool. Thanks so much!

julia said...

That definitely calls for a celebratory sundae! Congratulations, what exciting news!!
Love all your recipes, you're on the inspiration page of my blog www.beautyandsomebeef.com. Keep up the good work!!

Amelia Morris said...

Thanks so much for this comment, Bianca! So sorry that I'm just responding now. And please, keep on, keeping on!!

Shannon Fabry said...

Oh my goodness I love all of these this-es!!