I can’t stand passing up a good bargain and last week lemons were on sale. Like my carrots from my previous post the lemons were beginning to look a bit tired. They had sat prettily in my shell shaped bowl on my counter with only one being sacrificed for a tangy lemon vinaigrette. I will try not to pick art based on the current contents of my fridge but I was craving something fresh and light and I just happened to have a heap of lemons. This week I am sticking to my American roots and I am making a no churn (the best kind) ice cream with orange and lemon and a hint of mint. The painting you ask?? Why it is by none other than the great Raphaelle Peale who is considered to be American’s first professional still life painter (1).

Raphaelle Peale, A Dessert (Still Life with Lemons and Oranges), 1814
oil on panel, 33.97 x 42.26 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington

Peale was a bit of a rebel in the 18th century (as rebellious as becoming a still life painter can be). He was full of the ideals of the American Revolution and like the Founding Fathers who adopted the democracies of ancient Greece and Rome, Peale embraced the ordered and balanced aesthetics of neoclassical art (2). His painting, A Dessert, best highlights these aesthetic principles. The fruit is uniformly round and balanced within the symmetrical composition. Shapes are echoed (the two glass objects, the decanter on the left and the wine glass on the right, are reverse forms with one widening at the base and the other rising upward) and perfectly centered with the three oranges exactly in the middle of the canvas (3). The composition as a whole reflects not nature but timeless perfection and Peale sought to ground his work in the real world. It is a bit ironic however that while trying to embrace democratic ideals Peale’s subject, a dessert, was a dining course that would have only been enjoyed by his patrons, the upper middle class (4).

Ice cream is one of those great desserts that can be enjoyed by everyone. Even my partner (who doesn’t like sweets) can’t pass up a bite (or lick). Often made from frozen dairy products there are so many variations and styles (frozen custard, frozen yogurt, sorbert, gelato, semi-fredd0) that things can get a bit confusing. I am going to stick with what is considred ‘true ice cream’ which appeared in England and America in the 18th century. It was introduced by Quaker colonists to the United States and the great Founding Fathers (idealized by Peale) were known to often eat ice cream at the confectioners of the colonial era. The American version of ice cream is made with only cream, sugar, and flavoring and if eggs are added then it is considered to be of the ‘French’ style. And for the last ice cream fun fact…Americans consume about 13 liters of ice cream per person per year (5). (I think it is a good thing I am making a mini portion of the recipe below!)

{Orange & Lemon Ice Cream}

adapted from Nigella Bites
serves 6

1 orange
1.5 lemons
175g icing sugar
large pot (584ml) double cream
*3 mint leaves, finely chopped (optional)

Grate the zest of the orange and one of the lemons, juice them and add to the sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and add the double cream.

Whip everything until it holds soft peaks, and then turn into a shallow air-tight container (of approximately 2 liters) with a lid. Cover and freeze until firm (from 3 to 5 hours). Remove to ripen for 15-20 minutes before eating.

*I reduced my portions to make a helping for one. I used the juice and zest of half of an orange and 3/4 of a lemon. I mixed it with 160ml of double cream and 48g icing sugar. Just perfect for a fresh and sweet afternoon snack.