You meet Jeni’s fans in the strangest ways and places these days.
Take Lucy Enge, for example.
Lucy, who recently turned 13, lives in Signal Mountain, near Chattanooga, Tenn., population 7,429. During a recent visit to Chattanooga to attend a friend’s wedding, my wife and I were spending some down time checking out the views and the small town when Lucy’s mom Liz, who was walking the family’s dachshunds, noticed our Ohio license plates on our nearby parked car.
“You’re from Ohio? Have you ever had Jeni’s?”
I pointed to the Jeni’s logo on my T-shirt and said, “I have. I work there.”
“Oh my God! You’re kidding! My daughter is the biggest Jeni’s fan! This is so weird. I can’t believe I’m talking to someone from Jeni’s. Lucy knows everything about Jeni’sand she loves Jeni’s story. She knows the book by heart.
“We’re actually originally from Dayton, and I was just talking to my husband about planning a surprise trip up there and maybe go to Columbus to see if we could meet Jeni on Lucy’s birthday. This is so weird. I can’t believe it. Lucy makes ice creams from Jeni’s cookbook all the time. She’s even planning to spend her birthday gathering ingredients to make ice cream for our family. She is going to freak out when I tell her I met someone just around the corner from our house from Jeni’s.”
We said our goodbyes and promised to stay in touch, which we did. When Lucy’s birthday arrived in October, Lucy’s family arrived at our offices in Columbus. Alas, Jeni was out of town, but Lucy did get to sit in Jeni’s chair and in the Bajaj (the finest little three-wheel delivery truck in the land) and take a walk through our bakery (where we make macaroon cookies for or ice cream sandwiches).
Lucy, with her unbridled enthusiasm for the ice cream and how we make it, made us all smile wide that morning. Ever since she had the ice cream for the first time in our East Nashville scoop shop,she’s been hooked. When she received Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home as a gift from her grandfather, she made the first of 25 some different flavors, and has been making more and more of her own, such as Peanut Butter & Jelly. A true pro, she said she cuts no corners. She uses shopping for the best ingredients she can find at her local farmer’s market, as well as her local Chattanooga Whole Foods and Earth Fare markets.
The “technique,” the “philosophy,” and “Jeni’s story,” Lucy said, are what inspires her to make ice creams for her family and lucky neighbors.
“I love in the book when she talks about how she was really determined, that even though her first shop Scream failed, she started over and stuck to ice cream,” Lucy said. “And I love that she started out using ingredients from local farmers. I just really love that. I love supporting local farmers and getting food right from them. I love that my food isn’t coming from far away, from somewhere in Indonesia or something.”
Of the visit to Jeni’s headquarters and sitting in the chair of the woman whose name graces the pints, Lucy said, “I was dumbfounded. It really, really made my birthday. It was amazing for me.”
So, will Lucy Enge be the world’s next great ice cream maker some day? Lucy said she plans to continue to make flavors from Jeni’s book and come up with riffs of her own. Time will tell.
“When I was about eight-years-old,” Lucy said, “I read a book about presidents, and I’ve always thought that it would be great to be the first female president. I also play cello, so maybe I’ll do something with that, but right now I’m just focusing on getting through seventh grade.”
The Enge family, of Signal Mountain, Tenn., from left: Ruby, Chris, Lucy, and Liz, at Jeni’s headquarters in Columbus.