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PURO Mood for FOOD: Cold pleasure. On Ice Cream: a subjective history of cooling down the body

20.07.2015 City

Even though I was not there personally, rumor has it that in the 4th century B.C. the Chinese possessed the ability to freeze milk by adding water to it; Alexander the Great delighted in pieces of ice covered with honey while Nero had his most resilient runners sent to the mountains so that he could later revel in perfumed white frost coated with fruit nectar. Ice cream started appearing in various European cities around the time when Marco Polo came back to Italy from the Far East, bringing with him sorbet recipes (one of them Persians based on rose water). The frozen treat is featured in French cookbooks dating back to the end of the 17th century as well as in English books from the early 18th century. When it comes to American colonies, ice cream started being served there in 1744. In 1660, Café Procope became the first French café that allowed Parisians to taste the mixture of butter, cream and eggs –  the recipe for which was brought from Sicily by the café’s owner. However, at that times, this delicacy was available only to elites. Thomas Jefferson had his first try at ice cream while he was living in France where the treat had been introduced one hundred years earlier by Catherine de’ Medici. He wrote down a recipe (apart from things far more significant for the America and the world he wrote down as well) and served ice cream to his guests.

Nevertheless, all those American retro ice cream recipes are no good for me. The likes of banana splits, baked alaskas, shakes or ice cream floats just turn my stomach. I have never liked ice cream desserts that have to be eaten from cups and you had to sit down to consume it. When I was living in Sopot as I child, I used to bike from one ice cream parlor to another after dinner during holidays. My ride would start from “Gosia” near the hippodrome, then I’d go to Pawilon Handlowy (a Shopping Center) in the city center where they served soft-serve ice cream, and to a so-called “Włoch” (the Italian), that is Milano at Heroes of Monte Cassino Street. The final destination of my ride was “Sopotek”. It was important that ice cream was served in cones so that I could eat it just in time to ask for another one at the next stop during a walk. My dad used to bring cassata ice cream in a special container, but in my eyes it counted for nothing as there was no cone. To my despair, none of the above mentioned places exists anymore except for “Włoch”. However, I like and hold in high regard those Tricity ice cream parlors that boast many years of tradition: “u Kwaśniaka” and “Mariola” in Gdynia, “Miś” in Gdańsk and “Eskimo” in Wrzeszcz which malaga ice cream should definitely be praised in a poem of some sort. I have yet to check a newly-opened parlor Baccio di Café in Sopot, and when I am in Warsaw I go to “Lody Tradycyjne” on Mokotowska Street.

A story far different from the one about afternoon ice cream in the city is the story of morning ice cream on a beach. There were some mysterious rituals that said you couldn’t eat ice cream before swimming or that you should dose it after or between swimming and sunbathing. Shake off a blanket and warm up. I was interested only in chocolate-covered ice cream pops – the thing was to catch fragile and crispy chocolate with your lips so that it wouldn’t fall off of an immediately melting creamy filling. A skill not easy to acquire, though quite natural for someone who spends the majority of their life on a beach.

It’s hard to say whether adolescence would have been the same in the People’s Republic of Poland if it hadn’t been for Melba ice cream popularized in Orbis’ eating establishments. Melba was brought to Poland and didn’t differ a bit from a dessert invented in 1892 by Auguste Escoffier. And just to prove what I’ve just said, the dessert was featured in one of the episodes of a highly popular Polish TV series “07 Come In”.

I have been an aficionado of sorbets and granita for a long time. The more sour, the better – they are light and refreshing, perfect for hot days when every additional layer of cream denies lightness.

I bought an ice cream machine 5 years ago, though it’s not a prerequisite for success: ice cream made in a mixer may be equally good, the secret to its perfect consistency being the aeration – a fork is all I need to make this work. I make ice cream of almost everything: savory ice cream made of egg plant and vinaigrette or camembert and cauliflower, sweet ice cream made of baked tomatoes with strawberries and basil (in the picture), cucumber and sage flower (in the picture) or flowers of intensive lemon thyme and prosecco.

FLESH FLAVOUR FROST are vegan ice cream I made in 2011 and introduced it to public in my studio during Artloop art festival. Difficult as it may seem to talk about the taste of flesh, it’s equally problematic to talk about the way truffles taste unless we try them. FLESH FLAVOUR FROST have the perversely identical percent composition to that of human flesh: water comprises more than a half, proteins stand for 20%, fat for 10% while the rest is just carbohydrates and minerals. I used Japanese silken tofu, almond milk, smoked salt, birch sap and black truffles because of their natural smell closely reminiscent of rain. An ingredient that most strongly reminds of the richness and warmth of the aroma of breathing, clean flesh is cumin. It enriches the ice cream with the scent of the sun from the countries of its origin, the sweetness of sweat, plowed ground and the smell of skin after sunbathing. The ice cream taste wasn’t very sweet, still for 200 tasters only 2 portions were spitted out. Associations multiplied with every additional helping, but they weren’t obvious. That’s how I finished my last holidays and since then, I’ve started working with food as a medium.

But that’s another story. Today, I go on vacation! ☺ I wish you a great summer!

Text: Anna Królikiewicz

Artist, teacher, author of numerous exhibitions and installations. She works as the Associate Professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk where she teaches drawing and at School of Form in Poznań where she gives classes titled The shape of taste. In her drawings and objects she deals with a broadly defined corporeality of a body and the fragility of memory. Her latest works touch upon the issues related to the physiology of taste and the phenomenon of synesthesia.

Photo: Anna Królikiewicz and, Amercian Treasury of the Library of Congress and other web resources.

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