This week the only meal item more consistent than the lattes we’ve been drinking with breakfast are the homemade affogatos we’ve been making for dessert. These grown-up ice cream floats are easy-peasy: scoop vanilla ice cream into a bowl, pull a shot of espresso and drown the ice cream in the hot espresso. Affogato means “drowned” in Italian, and once you pour the hot espresso over the ice cream, it’s easy to see how the dessert got its name. As the espresso crema melds with the sweetened cream of the ice cream, it creates a velvety and luxurious indulgence.
We like to use Three Twins Madagascar Vanilla ice cream in our affogatos because it’s a creamy rather than icy ice cream. As for espresso, well, I’ll reveal the real reason we’ve been splurging on affogatos nearly every night: we bought a Nespresso machine last weekend. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this line of espresso machines, it uses a capsule system to brew espresso quickly and easily. I can hear the coffee purists (and romantics) groaning at the thought of a capsule system—and until last weekend, I did too. At first I felt guilty for using such an automated system. I use an electric toothbrush, read books on my iPad and now use an espresso machine that is as automated as it gets? Was this machine bringing me one step closer to the utterly unromantic food capsule system of The Jetsons?
The more I thought about it, the more I began to feel a kinship with the characters in the Industrial Revolution-era mini series Lark Rise to Candleford and Cranford, who shudder at how the imminent railway will change their quiet, close-knit communities. Today we’re already well into the technological revolution of the digital age, but how do we balance the new with the old? What do we hold on to and what do we let go?
History is the great teacher that helps us make sense of our current times, and if I look back to reactions to the Industrial Revolution, I think of the art nouveau movement. In reaction to the monotony of the mass produced art created by machines, the art nouveau artists sought inspiration in nature and infused their work with sinuous curves they saw in nature. If I look around me today, I can see people making concerted efforts to unplug from technology and relearn the forgotten arts of previous generations: handmade goods are popular, canning classes are popping up and the DIY movement is as strong as ever. I know I don’t want to live in the past—Midnight in Paris showed me the folly of that mindset—but I also don’t want to forget where I came from, so to speak. Perhaps the answer lies not in rejecting this or embracing that but in observing how the changes affect us and living intentionally in light of that. One thing’s for sure: this isn’t something I can solve in one blog post and package neatly with a bow. In the meantime, I’m going to say I can live with the more frequent affogato ritual.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no wrong or right way to make an affogato. Experiment with different flavors of ice cream (Sam likes cardamom ice cream) or adding a spoonful of amaretto or hazelnut liqueur. If you don’t have espresso readily available, use a strong, dark coffee.
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
1 shot of hot espresso
Make the Affogato
Scoop the ice cream into a bowl, pour the espresso over the top and eat immediately.