It’s summertime and it’s absolutely sweltering. I don’t think I’ve ever known it to be so hot (I probably say that every summer!) and I am literally melting away!
On a more positive note, I am definitely gorging on more and more ice-cream in a bid to keep cool, and I suppose I should make the most of it. After all once the hot weather gives way to the cold, I won’t be looking at another ice-cream until next summer.
This got me thinking about the lovely ice-cream treats we used to feast on when we were kids. When we were growing up, ice-cream was not a freezer staple but something Mum got in when we were having a party or a family gathering, so it really was an occasional treat and regarded as something quite special. Back when we were kids, the weather didn’t matter a bit – we would have happily devoured ice-cream in below freezing conditions!
However, I’ve noticed that a lot of the ice-cream treats that were very popular in the ’80s and ’90s – and most probably even before then – seem to be virtually unheard of today, or at the very least they’re not as common. I’ve noticed that twenty-first century ice-cream has been given something of an image overhaul. With an array of flavours and textures, ice-cream nowadays is smoother, slicker and sophisticated and most definitely not just for kids.
But I’ve also noticed however, that despite ice-cream being given something of a revamp, most of the time it’s just an accompaniment to a dessert such as a fruit pie or tart, fudge cake, or waffles etc.
With these old time classics, however, Ice-cream is very much the star of the show.
1. JELLY AND ICE-CREAM
The classic kids dessert. No child’s birthday party was complete without jelly and ice-cream. I haven’t been to any kids parties for quite some time now but I do hope it still features on the menu. I absolutely loved this as a kid. I didn’t care what flavour the jelly or ice-cream was; as long as one half of the bowl wobbled and the other was icy. I’m sure jelly and ice-cream were most people’s childhood favourite dessert but while most kids grow out of it, I still have a massive bowlful most weekends as a not-so-little treat. My not-so-guilty pleasure!
2. ICE-CREAM FLOAT
A glass of soda with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. My mum introduced me to the delights of an ice-cream float when I was about five. But Hubby was horrified when he heard that Mum used cola and not root beer which he insists was the only soda used in making an ice-cream float in the States. Well over here in England, it was always cola floats – especially as we don’t really get good quality root beer over here. And I’m almost certain that Mum has used cream soda a few times as well. Though whether you use root beer or cola, they’re both equally delicious. I think so anyway! There is now a new trend for sodas and ice-creams of any flavour. Hmmm… don’t know how Hubby will feel about that!
3. ICE-CREAM SANDWICH
This was an amazing treat when we were growing up. An ice-cream sandwich is a layer of ice-cream sandwiched between two biscuits, cookies, slices of cake, or -as in the ones Mum used to make for us – wafer. Ice-cream sandwiches have been eaten all over the world and most countries have their own version of it. Admittedly it probably wasn’t such a hit for people with sensitive teeth but it was seriously delish. We tended to use mainly vanilla, Neapolitan, or raspberry ripple ice-creams (with the latter being my fave!) Basically ice-creams which were typical of the 1980s.
Now that I think of it, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed an ice-cream sandwich. Hmmm… time to start buying packs of wafers, I think!
4. ICE-CREAM CUPS WITH LITTLE WOODEN SPOONS
I haven’t had these in England since childhood but I have stumbled across them when I visited India – and the ice-cream was delicious! These are not to be confused with miniature tubs of ice-cream which are still readily available. The ones I’m referring to were little cardboard or lightweight plastic cups of ice-cream with peel-off paper lids. These were eaten with the little wooden spoons that came with them, although they resembled paddles rather than spoons. The ice-cream was almost always vanilla but I’m sure I vaguely remember vanilla ice-cream that contained ripples of chocolate or strawberry flavoured sauce.
Mini tubs of ice-cream today don’t come the little wooden spoon, and if it does come with a spoon at all, it’s always plastic, which handy as it is, it’s just not the same. I actually think the little wooden spoon made the ice-cream taste better!
5. BANANA SPLIT
Now who doesn’t like a good ol’ banana split? My aunt used to make a very simple version of this classic dessert which she served as afters during the summer months. Hers consisted of a banana cut into quarters served with vanilla ice-cream. Simple, not quite like the traditional version, but still very appetizing.
The classic version – which originated in Pennsylvania – involves splitting a banana lengthways and placing it in a boat-shaped dish before filling it with three scoops of ice-cream (usually strawberry, chocolate, and vanilla) before being topped with sauces, whipped cream, crushed nuts and a cherry. Many different versions of this dessert exist but one thing remains – it’s unlikely you’ll find anyone who can finish a whole one by themselves!
Banana splits can still be found in ice-cream parlours and diners, but thanks to the emergence of more sophisticated desserts, this retro pud is not as ‘talked about’. In fact three years ago, there were reports that Wimpy had dropped this dessert from their menu due to a fall in demand. Are people mad?
6. KNICKERBOCKER GLORY
At the mere mention of a Knickerbocker Glory I’m immediately transported back to the 1980s. Another retro dessert like the banana split, a Knickerbocker Glory is an ice-cream sundae served in a tall glass which contains layers of fruit, ice-cream, jelly, cream, nuts, meringue, sauces or syrups. This dessert is as peculiar to Britain as the banana split is to America, and has been served up in ice-cream parlours across Britain since the 1930s. There is no set recipe for making a Knickerbocker Glory and flavours can vary. This was another dessert which didn’t survive the cull at Wimpy and was cut along with the banana split three years ago.
There are some things I will never understand…
7. ARCTIC ROLL
I must have been about seven when a friend told me that she was going to have an Arctic roll for dessert after her tea. I had no idea what an Arctic roll was at the time – but I soon found out!
An Arctic roll is similar in appearance to a Swiss roll. It’s made of vanilla ice cream wrapped in a thin layer of sponge cake to form a roll, with a layer of raspberry flavoured sauce or jam between the sponge and the ice cream. This dessert was invented in Britain by a Czech lawyer who had emigrated here, and it has been around since the 1950s, though it became extremely popular during the 1970s.
Since being enlightened by my friend, my family and I had worked our way through quite a few Arctic rolls in our time, with the pud being a firm favourite with Mum. Production of the Arctic roll ceased for a while, beginning in the 1990s due to a slump in sales, but it resurfaced again in 2008 due to a combination of low-cost and nostalgic charm. Reviews were mixed with some regarding the dessert as too old-fashioned while the nostalgics among us welcomed it’s return. Despite it still being available to buy – with chocolate versions available as well – it’s not as popular as it once was. But at least it’s still here!
8. ICE CREAM IN A CARDBOARD BLOCK
Those of us old enough to remember, will know that back in the day ice-cream didn’t come in rectangular plastic tubs, or cylindrical tubs a la Haagen-Dazs or Ben and Jerry’s. No, instead was available in the form of a block and wrapped in a cardboard container. Flavours tended to be vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, raspberry ripple or Neapolitan – the flavours of the day. As you can imagine, a cardboard wrapper wasn’t very practical: if you didn’t get your shopping home fast enough on a hot day, the ice-cream would melt and start to seep out of the packet. The softened ice-cream would also be at risk of being squished by heavier goods. Furthermore, if you were able to get the ice-cream home in one piece, it was best eaten once opened, as it was impossible to seal properly and the ice-cream would develop a layer of frost in the freezer. My mum especially liked the ice-cream that came in tubs because she could store things in them after the ice-cream had long been devoured.
But there’s something extremely nostalgic about the old block-form ice-cream – and they did have their advantages: less waste and you could cut the perfect slice to put into your ice-cream sandwich. I very much doubt it’s available in the UK anymore although, I have seen them abroad – so there’s a chance that they could make they’re way back to these shores again.
9. ICE-CREAM BOMBES
This dessert is believed to have originated during the Victorian era and it’s got something of a retro vibe. Also known as a bombe glacee, this ice-cream pud is frozen in a spherical mould so it resembles a dome, and they sometimes had a hard chocolate shell. I don’t remember Mum ever making these but I do remember her buying packs of these from Iceland (when the frozen food chain started springing up everywhere) so we clearly enjoyed them. I also remember tucking into these during an extended-family meal in a restaurant when I was about eight. It was mint flavoured ice-cream which I was crazy about at the time, served with fresh cream. Yum!
As far as I’m concerned, Baked Alaska is the queen of ice-cream puddings. A very decadent-looking ice-cream dessert which generally consisted of ice-cream and fruit on a cake base, covered in meringue before being browned in the oven. And here’s the amazing bit – the ice-cream doesn’t melt! Baked Alaska was a very popular dessert when I was growing up and although it’s been virtually unheard of for at least fifteen years, I’m thrilled to see that Marks and Spencer have brought out their version of this classic dessert.
I must say though, that one memory I’m glad has become a very distant one is that delightful combo of vanilla ice-cream with… tinned fruit salad! When I was a child I was obsessed with tinned fruit salad. In fact my mum used to say it was the only time I would go near a piece of fruit. I remember for school dinners, desert would sometimes consist of tinned fruit and custard (which I thought was yum!) But our family gatherings and parties weren’t any better: dessert was almost always tinned fruit and vanilla ice-cream. Don’t get me wrong; at the time I thought it was fab. But then I hadn’t developed the sophisticated palate that I have now! I have no aversion to fruit and ice-cream only now I insist on using fresh fruit rather than opening a tin.
Now if only we could bring back the other old classics…