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Pandemic projects: 31 flavors? How about 121 - Fairborns get creative with ice cream

By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

Ice cream.

Faces light up at the mention of it. Who doesn’t have a favorite flavor or fond memory of the tasty treat?

In the middle of the pandemic, Kate Fairborn and her daughter, Meg, 16, tapped into that joy by making ice cream and creating happy memories in the kitchen.

One hundred and twenty-one flavors later, they’re still creating.

“I like cooking, and I like ice cream,” Meg Fairborn said. “Mom got me an ice cream cookbook and a small electric ice cream maker for Christmas in 2019.”

The teen recently graduated from Mead Education Partnership Program a public school and homeschool program in the Mead School District. She’d been dually enrolled there and at Whitworth University since age 14. Soon the young scholar will be moving on campus to attend Whitworth on an honors scholarship but in the meantime, there’s ice cream.

“During the pandemic, she started going rogue – making her own recipes,” Kate Fairborn said. “She took them to her piano teacher.”

Meg had been Ann Winterer’s student for eight years until COVID-19 put a stop to their lessons. Recently, Winterer was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I call them ice cream angels. As of this week, they have made my husband and me over 100 flavors!” Winterer said. “They arrive beautifully packaged at least once a week. She calls us her ‘taste team.’ The flavors are as simple as Vietnamese coffee ice cream to complex flavors like pepper and mint chip, or white chocolate with raspberry jam swirls and Blondies.”

The mother-daughter duo work well together.

“I do the ice cream base, and mom does the baking,” Meg Fairborn said. “She also labels the containers because she has better handwriting.”

They began turning out batches of Almond Brittle with salted ganache, and Dark Chocolate with Marzipan. Meg Fairborn keeps a running record and grades each new creation.

Her least favorite is Lemongrass Chile Ginger.

“Too gingery!” she said.

Her mom laughed.

“We’ve had some really gross ones,” Kate Fairborn said. “But we have so much fun. I love that she’s so adventurous.”

For Christmas this year Kate Fairborn ordered her daughter an upscale Cuisinart ice cream maker from Williams and Sonoma.

“They sent us two!” Kate Fairborn recalled. “I called them and told them, and they told me to keep both.”

With new equipment came new creativity.

“I take a recipe from the cookbook and do a riff on it,” said Meg.

Original flavors include Coffee Cracker Jack, Fazermints in Sweet Cream, and Little Debbie’s Oatmeal Sandwich Cookie.

Of course, not every batch is a home run.

“We’re doing a Farmer’s Market theme this week,” said Meg. “Last week, we made a delicious Caramel Corn on the Cob ice cream using fresh corn kernels, so we decided to try a different fresh corn recipe, this time steeping the corn cobs in the base. Long story short, my brother said, ‘It tastes like sock,’ and none of us disagrees.”

Having a weekly theme adds to the fun and experimentation, and the Winterers enjoy being their taste-testers.

“They did a breakfast theme once and brought over warm steel-cut oats to pair with some fresh cardamom ice cream,” Winterer recalled. “Who does this!? Especially for two old people that are invisible to the rest of the world most of the time.”

That breakfast theme led to the discovery of one of Meg’s favorite flavors: Breakfast Trash. The recipe lists a combination of cereals including Captain Crunch, Corn Pops and Frosted Flakes.

The Winterers aren’t the only ones to enjoy the fruits of the Fairborn labor. They’ve delivered ice cream to neighbors, family, friends, and once school began meeting on campus again, Meg Fairborn’s Whitworth classmates sampled some ice cream.

“In my computer science class, we ended up making an ice cream ordering system for our final,” she said, grinning.

Speaking of finals, Meg said making ice cream offers a great study break.

“I made a lot of ice cream during finals week,” she said.

Kate smiled.

“She’s a stress-ice-cream maker.”

Lately, they’ve expanded into making sorbets like Lavender Lemonade and Strawberry Rhubarb.

Though her dorm move-in is looming and the pandemic waning, Meg plans to continue making her frozen concoctions.

“My goal is to come home once a week to make ice cream,” she said. “I like how happy ice cream makes people.”

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