Ice cream getting hot
My earliest memory of Ice cream is in shape of a white creamy liquid dripping from a stick spoiling my nursery uniform but giving immense delight to my thirsty soul.
My sole motivation behind letting myself into that abominable prison house called school was the little white stick that my mother allowed me to grab and lick after the classes were over. I used to look with wishful eyes the attractive white box of ice cream walla who also had other varieties-the red tangy one that came in twenty five paisa, the slightly yellow one that came in fifty paisa and the expensive white creamy one that came in full one rupee. My mother had warned me against eating the orange one as she said it contained worms that came out if you sprinkled salt on it! So my childhood remained deprived of that one single taste that so often contented the appetite of my not-so-affluent friends. <BR><BR> When I went to college I read about globalisation, about the invasion of markets by foreign goods and of absolute wiping out of the local economy by organized production houses. But I could not understand these things till one day while crossing from near my school my eyes failed to spot that old ice cream walla whose presence had become such an inseparable part of the entire set up. It came as a rude shock to me that his place was now taken by three four colourful wheeled vans endorsing attractive logos and pictures of branded ice cream. <BR><BR> That changes are always for better or worse is like putting an emotion into plain black and white. I may have in my own personal way some attachment with the white stick ice cream or with the more expensive soapy, frothy softie of my school days but the accessibility, taste and variety that the present day ice cream industry is offering is no doubt incomparable. <BR><BR> Who would have thought barely a decade ago of eating ice creams made of real fresh fruits- a la Gelato Vittorio or a cool creamy liquid fried in hot boiling oil or what is called today the fried ice cream. <BR><BR> In India the ice cream industry took sometimes to catch the global cue because the country has an indigenous rich and well developed dessert market. What ice cream would stand in competition against Indian sweets? But no you can’t say so just because you are born in the land of Kulfi. You will have the authority only when you taste Baked Alaska (an ice-cream sponge cake dish topped with meringue), Arctic roll (British dessert made of vanilla and flour), Adzuki (Japanese red bean ice cream) and Dondruma( a Turkish ice made of salep and mastic resin). <BR><BR> We Indians who generally go gaga over a handful of varieties that Baskin Robbins offers are unaware of the fact that the company actually makes 1000 flavours! What we get in India generally as branded ice cream is nothing but milk and corn flour seasoned with a few chemicals and packed in attractive cones, cups and cornettos. Our knowledge of Ice cream is so poor that we do not even know what cornetto is! Most of us think it is the name of an ice cream that Kwality offers. Update your dictionary- it is actually the registered name of an improved variety of waffle cone that does not become soggy and that was invented and patented by an Italian firm called Spica in 1960! <BR><BR> The world offers so much in shape of that delicate, cool, tender delight called ice cream that I being a lover of it feel choked with emotion at my own minisculeness and misfortune of not having tasted even a fraction of that tremendous, rich and inexhaustible treasure. “What is thy life O mortal”, my heart cries out, “if thou hast not known the glories of the Australian Giant Sandwich Monster, the Manoco Bar, the Irish Scottish Sliders, the Argentine Helado, the Greek Kimaki and the Japanese Macha!” <BR><BR> Sometimes I wonder whether there is an intricate connection between the survival of a race and its appetite for ice cream! Otherwise why would the Greeks, the Romans, the Chinese and the Persians survive the ravages of time and the Glorious Harappan civilization fade into oblivion? And let us be pragmatic and not blame some harmless ecology or innocent river for their decline. The reason I am sure was hidden in their food habits-they having failed to secure the “divine blessings of the Gods”. Yes, that’s precisely what the ancient Greeks called ice cream! Imagine what foodies they must have been that nearly 4000 years ago they got for themselves ice houses constructed at the banks of Euphrates and as early as 5th century BC they began its marketing by selling ice cones mixed with fruit and honey. A honey flavoured cornetto.! <BR><BR> Roman emperor Nero (62 AD) was fond of fruit ice cream and hence sent his servants to fetch ice from mountains! The Falooda that we eat today is actually a Persian dish Faloodeh made from starch and has its origin around 400BC. The Chinese who claim to be the pioneers in almost everything -be it the first currency notes, the first stint with silk or the first to flood the markets of neighbours with cheap plastic goods-were not far behind in making ice cream too. They are credited to have invented a device that made quick ice using salt peter (no, it was not imported from Bihar, China had enough of it). <BR><BR> The unfortunate Charles I whom the world knows as an autocrat, a despot, a tyrant, an enemy of democracy and parliament was also a lover of ice cream! It is said that he made his chef keep the formula a secret so that it remained a royal prerogative. <BR><BR> Our great Mughals, we should not forget were the die hard lovers of food and all that is rich and luxurious in the modern Indian cuisine has a Mughal origin. So they too loved ice cream and they too enjoyed it in royal feasts and ceremonies. When they could get choicest fruits from Farghana and Samarquand and the best wines from Persia, why couldn’t they send relays of horsemen to bring ice from Hindukush for their aromatic fruit sherbets? <BR><BR> But were sending horsemen to run and fetch ice or storing ice in underground icehouses near rivers, the only way of making ice creams in those days? Sadly, yes. And that’s why the common man remained deprived of and unknown to its delectable taste. But let’s thank Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia who first got the patent for a small hand run ice cream freezer. Gradually with the coming of electricity there also came a revolution in ice cream making. Thereafter Giant corporates like Howard Johnson, Dairy Queen, Baskin Robbins, Gelato Vittorio, Ben and Jerry’s, Haagen Dazs and Carvel changed the concept of ice cream in the world. Soft serves, Sundaes and super premiums began to be offered by shops next door. <BR><BR> Thanks to globalisation, the world has really become a small place to live in. Today I can access any ice cream from the world over in my local confectionary shop…. but among the confused tastes of multitudinous flavours I some how always try to find that one singular taste of the white stick ice-cream which trickled through my fingers and ran into my nursery uniform…spoiling it but leaving an imprint on my memory which has failed to faint in all these years.