Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Artful Ice Cream

Shire Books
Ivan Day's charming and mouth-watering history of ice cream - a link is under the cover image on the left- has opened my eyes to the amazing world of Victorian ice cream. Even though the very first written recipes for "iced cream" date from the 17th century, it really was the Victorians who transformed this favorite dessert into High Art.

Molds from The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner Chas Francatelli 1862
The Royal English and Foreign Confectioner (1862)
For example, did you know that in the 19th century, at a fancy dinner, you might be served an incredible trompe l'oeil (literally "trick of the eye" - meaning something made to look like something else) ice cream in the shape of  a roast joint of beef surrounded by champagne bottles (all done in ice creams, mind you) -  or a huge filigreed fruit basket - or even the Taj Mahal? Day's book is illustrated with some incredible pictures from cookery books, and even photographs of Victorian ice cream molds. Day has included photographs of some modern recreations of Victorian trompe d'oeil ice creams - and they really are lovely.

Agnes Marshall, inventor of an ice cream freezer in the 1880s, had some good recipes - her Sultan Pudding, for example, was made of vanilla and maraschino cherry ice cream, with Turkish Delight decorations, and was shaped like a mosque. "Ideal for ball suppers," she noted (and I have made a note of the same, if I ever give one of these). Or perhaps you'd prefer ice cream in the shape of asparagus stalks tied with a ribbon? Miss Marshall can do that, too.

Ice Cream, of course, continues on to the 20th century, to ice cream carts and ice cream popsicles and cones, all lavishly illustrated, all fascinating. But it is the Victorian ice creams that I like the best. Not just the shapes, but the flavors, too: orange flower, chestnut, almond macaroon, tea, apricot, damson plum. Even the odd 17th century flavor of parmesan cheese was still made then. Day includes the parmesan recipe along with a few others, at the end of the book, in case you'd like to try it.  I think I'll try the other 17th century iced cream favorite, burnt almond, instead.

Ice Cream by Ivan Day
Shire Library, 2011 (64 pp.)

[Here's the disclosure part: Shire Books kindly sent a free copy of Ice Cream to me, but all the opinions above are my own.]


vanilla said...

I think the parmesan might be worth a try!

Bill said...

I love ice cream, but earlier this week on a restaurant menu I noticed bacon ice cream. No. Wrong. I've gotta draw the line somewhere, and savory ice cream seems as good a place as any.