Table for One

No-Churn Scotch Ice Cream Is Self-Care in a Glass

When loving yourself means heavy cream and vanilla beans.

July 19, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin. Food Stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

Table for One is a column by Senior Editor Eric Kim, who loves cooking for himself—and only himself—and seeks to celebrate the beauty of solitude in its many forms.

"Should we ever feel truly lonely if we never ate alone?" I pause at this line every time I reread it in my favorite novel by Christopher Isherwood, A Single Man. (Tom Ford's film adaptation, starring leading man and total dreamboat Colin Firth, is also very good.)

The narrative follows a depressive literature professor, George, in the aftermath of his partner Jim's death. One of the most emphatic scenes for me is when he's standing in the grocery store alone, each shelved bottle, carton, and can a stabbing reminder of the meals they used to cook together.

Filled with nausea and rage, he ditches the snug, solo evening he had planned for himself ("fixing the food he has bought, then lying down on the couch beside the bookcase and reading himself slowly sleepy") to instead dance, dine, and drink Scotch with his bestie Charley (played by Julianne Moore), who cooks them both a stew.

"The stew turned out quite a success," George narrates, "though not noticeably different from all Charlotte's other stews."

Too often we singletons at home have to act as if there aren't nights when we would much rather have a drink with a friend and sob into their arms uncontrollably. But were we to have the option between sitting to dinner with a loved one and by ourselves in front of the television, I wonder how many of us, truly, would choose the latter?

It's not that we can never find pleasure in the "absolutely convincing and charming scene of domestic contentment" that involves cooking for ourselves and dining alone. It's that this kind of solitude comes out of a negation, like a lost love, and resolute survival in spite of that negation.

Convincing is the keyword here. It's all an act.

Sure, after a lifetime of being alone on this earth, there are nights when I am perfectly happy to be with myself and a bowl of stew. I've dedicated an entire column to it. But there are nights, too, when I'm forced to confront my loneliness, when I realize how much of my day-to-day may actually be an affront, an infantilizing lie to the outside world. This kind of lie helps to convince everyone (especially myself) of my unending happiness with life just as it is.

But to say, I won't eat alone tonight—isn't that deadly dangerous? Isn't it the start of a long landslide—from eating at counters and drinking at bars to drinking at home without eating, to despair and sleeping pills and the inevitable final overdose?
C. Isherwood

A friend of mine the other day told me about a first date she went on, where both parties felt stuck, forced to prolong the night just because they had mutually agreed to sit at a dive bar together for hours. She went home alone, starving, and stopped at an Artichoke Pizza for a vodka slice. Something clicked for her in that moment: If eating pizza by herself was more enjoyable than being with another human being, then why the hell do we so often choose the latter?

Maybe because there's always that slight chance we might voluntarily want to stay at that bar for longer. Maybe because we know that the double Scotch could evolve into a real dinner, and if we're lucky, that dinner could turn into a few more.

Fortunately for us loners, the truth of the matter is that most nights aren't like George's breakdown in the grocery store. Most nights just...are.

Like when I come home after work, I find great comfort in the normalcy. Every night I bend my face down so my pup Quentin can lick it (I once read that this increases serotonin levels in dogs). Then I throw some kibble into her bowl, put on the water for a hot bath, and pour myself a glass of Scotch. I rarely veer from this routine.

And for nights when even routine isn't enough and I'm in need of more insulation from life's stresses, there's always the quart container of no-churn ice cream that's in my freezer at all times.

I never thought much of this recipe because it's just something I happen to make whenever I have leftover cream in the fridge. But it is incredibly useful not just for its one-step magic (like Nigella Lawson's coffee ice cream, you need only to whisk together the ingredients to soft peaks, then turn into a vessel to freeze), but also for its versatility (over chocolate lava cakes, with pie, in a root beer float, or affogato).

It's nice, as well, to know that I'm never more than a step away from ice cream—for whenever that craving hits.

I'll admit that the vanilla bean here is the only ingredient that's a bit difficult to source. Could you use a teaspoon or two of extract in its place? Sure, of course. But it is worth it, I promise, especially when there are only four ingredients, no eggs (no sweetened condensed milk either), and absolutely zero cooking whatsoever.

No churn, no problem. Photo by Bobbi Lin

Each part needs to contribute to the whole, and the vanilla bean caviar is probably this recipe's most important ingredient —after the tablespoon of Scotch, which keeps the cream soft and voluptuous (because alcohol doesn't freeze). There is, too, the added bonus of the whisky's musky caramel flavor, which pairs beautifully with the vanilla.

No-churn ice cream with vanilla bean and Scotch is my gold standard for frozen dessert: It's creamier than you'd think (especially for a one-step recipe) and, for me, the absolute height of self-care.

This is a tightly planned little house. He often feels protected by its smallness; there is hardly room enough here to feel lonely.
C. Isherwood

It helps me forget that it's just me for the night, even if I'm still left with the aching question: Should we ever feel truly lonely if we never ate alone?

Maybe, maybe not.

All I know is that, for now, I'm perfectly happy lying down on the couch beside my bookcase, Old Fashioned tumbler of ice cream in hand, reading myself slowly sleepy...

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Rowland Laedlein
    Rowland Laedlein
  • Brendan Hasenstab
    Brendan Hasenstab
  • Cookie
  • mmurray
  • Mitchell Robinson
    Mitchell Robinson
Eric Kim was the Table for One columnist at Food52. He is currently working on his first cookbook, KOREAN AMERICAN, to be published by Clarkson Potter in 2022. His favorite writers are William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway, but his hero is Nigella Lawson. You can find his bylines at The New York Times, where he works now as a writer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ericjoonho.


Rowland L. June 19, 2023
I made this once and now I make this all the time. It is so easy. I have added chopped cherries, finely minced candied ginger, chopped strawberries, cocoa and instant espresso, salted caramel syrup, and many other items to the base and they all are a tremendous hit. I retired my ice cream maker.
Brendan H. July 29, 2019
I made this earlier today, and it is truely the most lovely frozen dessert I have made in years. And I say that as a dedicated ice cream maker, so I salute you, Eric! Well done!
Eric K. July 31, 2019
Brendan, that makes me so happy. Thank you!
Cookie July 25, 2019
Wonderful. I will try this with some good bourbon, as bourbon & vanilla is a favorite flavor and aroma combo for me. I am an an essentially social person, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE cooking a great meal alone, and eating alone. It's luxurious and freeing.
Mitchell R. July 25, 2019
me too...I bought a relatively cheap bottle of bourbon and an expensive vanilla bean, split the bean open and dropped it in the bottle. 2 weeks later it smelled and tasted amazing.
Cookie July 26, 2019
Great idea; will try it.
Eric K. July 31, 2019
Bang for your buck! Love it.
mmurray July 23, 2019
Eric, not sure how I missed this before today (I always make it a point to read all your columns). As usual, you write beautifully, eloquently, bittersweetly, just like life. Please keep writing for us.
Eric K. July 23, 2019
This made my day. Thank you.
Mitchell R. July 22, 2019
that is some truly gorgeous writing...
Eric K. July 22, 2019
Thank you!
HalfPint July 21, 2019
Love the article, but really, only 1 Tb of scotch? 😉
Eric K. July 22, 2019
Sometimes I “spill” a little more in...
Xavier July 21, 2019
Love this whole write up and recipe. My Partner was laid off and took a job elsewhere. As I love to cook and enjoy my solitude, I have continued to try new recipes and cook for myself. With each of his visits, he tries something new and I become more savvy at each recipe. This will definitely be a keeper. Plan to try this for this evening - a perfect Sunday evening enjoyment. Thank you. Cheers***
Eric K. July 22, 2019
I love stories of solitude because they almost always involve the negation of another. Thank you for sharing yours, Xavier. Agreed that lots can be learned in the kitchen while tinkering alone.
KhaledJ July 20, 2019
This is out of this world. I loved every single line of this. I try to write myself but then I would never be a ble to express myself like this, every single word you said is something I wish I can say out loud.
Most of the days I convince myself that it is totally okay to be back in the flat shower and sleep. And some other nights hit hard.
Thank you Eric for this!
Eric K. July 22, 2019
Khaled, I’m so glad this spoke to you. Thanks for reading!
Dana July 20, 2019
Can I add something like aliquer
Eric K. July 20, 2019
Of course! Something like a coffee or orange liqueur would taste great with the vanilla here. I've recently discovered Pernod myself and may try a licorice-stracciatella combo with this base.
Dana E. July 19, 2019
Eric, reading your column has become my Friday routine (I too am a loner who loves routine). Thank you for brightening the end of my week with your words and recipes. I'm actually planning to go home tonight and sit on the couch with my cat, watching the new season of Queer Eye. I may have to whip this ice cream up to go with it :)
Eric K. July 19, 2019
That sounds like the perfect Friday evening, Dana. Thank you so much for stopping by my party of one.
Sherry E. July 22, 2019
Eric do you have a weekly column? where do I find it? I love what you write, regarding this - if nothing else available, Sherry work? oh dear...I may need to venture out to a liquor store???
are all your posts found somewhere?
Sherry E. July 22, 2019
oh one more thought, the bath ritual, favorite stuff for scents? or additives to water? SEEKING INSPIRATION...
Eric K. July 22, 2019
Hi Sherry! Thank you very much! Yes, I write a weekly column here (check back for a new recipe every Friday afternoon):

As for a Scotch substitute, I'd use vanilla extract over sherry; bourbon would work, too, of course.

I'm a huge fan of these bath bombs:

Hope that helps!
Sherry E. July 22, 2019
hi eric thank you so much for quick response thank you for both info and need sub for scotch no booze in house except dry Sherry-