As far as desserts go, ice cream was probably one of the first sweet treats you ever tasted. Loved by toddlers (a toddler’s face when they taste this weird, sweet, cold, DELICIOUS thing for the first time is pure gold), tweens, teens and adults too; ice cream is not just a deliciously sweet and cooling dessert, but a spark of nostalgia too.
Often the treat we crave most comes from a place we love. I remember visiting my ouma and oupa’s house every Sunday for lunch – dessert always featured ice cream in some form or other: over malva pudding, ryspoeding, or (my variation) vanilla ice cream with Milo powder. Lots and lots of Milo powder vigorously self-blended till the ice cream is deliciously crunchy and creamy. Maybe that’s where my love of texture in food comes from; me as a taste-hungry eight-year-old thinking that vanilla ice cream was too “boring” but more fun with Milo. (This is all before the sound of the Ice Cream Truck came through the neighbourhood blaring it’s rehearsed tune over and over – at which point my brother and I went mental for Soft Serve.)
Fast-forward 20 years and my ice cream choosing is entirely different. It’s now vegan ice cream from Unframed and the flavours are certainly not Milo. It’s Madagascan vanilla (NOT boring), blue coconut spirulina, beetroot ginger chocolate, black sesame or (my favourite) coconut raspberry. The vegan flavours at Unframed change regularly with non-vegan and sorbet options changing too. Ice cream has been given new life and status with artisan ice cream churners changing people’s perceptions. “Artisan” implying that ice cream parlours are making healthy ice cream from scratch, in small batches, from real and sustainable food. Kids love it; strikingly, adults love it more.
Other known local artisan purveyors like Paul’s Homemade Ice Cream and The Creamery have successfully shown consumers that ice cream is an opportunity to be creative. It’s inventive, flavours are unique and unusual and top-ons are adventurous (have you tried toasted marshmallow yet?). There are even ice cream pop-ups! Ice cream… is glamorous.
In a campaign run on NYTimes, the publisher asked its readers to share photographs of their favourite memories of ice cream from their youth. Some of the submissions included images with their grandparents; a grumpy toddler plonked on a park lawn with a lump of ice cream melting into the grass; a sister with a tiny face fully ensconced in a McDonald’s soft serve; ice cream being eaten out of giant Ben & Jerry’s cartons on a linoleum kitchen floor.
Be it these memories, of us holding a R5 soft serve in a waxy ice cream cone, the happiest kid on earth at that moment; or the new ones, of us licking a turmeric latte scoop off a vegan sugar donut – the outcome is the same. Ice cream is a joy. It’s nostalgia, in whatever way that looks like to you, and why young and old keep returning to this cool sweet treat.
What are your favourite ice cream memories? And how do you enjoy ice cream now? Comment below so that we too can share in this gift of glamorous nostalgia.