SER HELADERO EN EL ALMA
Aunque sin traducir , deseo darle espacio aquí, porqué hubiese sido un honor conocer a ese representante de una especie en extincion …la de los heladeros con alma…
From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine , 26 de junio 2008
…When my father was 60 he retired. But he was restless. The year he turned 70, he bought the shop next door to his old cafe. He announced he was going to make and sell proper Italian ice cream–which has a softer texture than other recipes, although without descending to Mr Whippy’s levels of aeration. He learnt how to make ice cream, and bought lots of machinery, the principal piece of which looked like a large washing machine and was called il mantecatore–the churner. I later found out it had been a boyhood dream of his to open an ice-cream parlour but he’d never had the money for the equipment.
The ingredients were simple: cream, milk, sugar and the relevant extras (high cocoa-content chocolate, pistachio nuts, strawberries, mangoes). Water, sugar and fruit for sorbets. They went into the churner and glooped in creamy soft folds, just minutes later, into their containers. Italian ice cream should be made regularly: after as little as 48 hours it doesn’t taste the same any more. Three times a week, my father would start making ice cream at 5am. He always worked alone.
He opened on August Bank Holiday, 1999. I entered full of trepidation: my father had never made any sort of sweet thing before. What if it was rubbish? He stood behind his ice-cream display cabinet, all glass and stainless steel, with 24 flavours and tiny testing cones to help people navigate them. The little orange fridge seemed a long time ago. Some customers seemed confused by the vast choice and ended up going for safe flavours they knew: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry. My father didn’t want this; he wanted people to experiment. I tasted. It was excellent. I could scarcely believe someone I knew could make something this good. My father was an ice-cream maker!
Just-made, my father’s ice cream was truly perfect: dense but soft. There was no pointless licking involved, like with some ice creams in cones: each flick of the tongue made progress, a groove. If you were particularly fierce, you could actually move the whole scoop practically off the cone. I tried the tiramisu: coffee ice cream layered with a sponge steeped in liqueur and dusted with cocoa. I tried the apple crumble; not strictly speaking Italian, but soon one of my favourites. But the best flavour of all, despite no bits, was the chocolate-chestnut ice cream. It was wonderful: throat-fillingly thick and gooey.
My father had unorthodox methods of sourcing ingredients. The sweet chestnuts he harvested himself, in September. He’d tie a piece of wood to some rope, throw it up into the tree and down they’d fall. But then he had always been a forager. Lemons came direct from Sorrento, where the fruit are big, and sweet. He had a deal with the coach driver from a nearby hotel, who went to Italy once a week. On his return journey he’d find room for a crate of lemons for my father.
For five years the parlour was an enormous success. My father would occasionally tell me that some famous person had asked him to supply ice cream for their party, or that an expensive restaurant wanted to serve his gelato. He always said no, because he was a one-man band (although my mother and I were allowed to help serve behind the counter). Ultimately, this was his downfall. He worked seven days a week, sometimes 18-hour days. By 2004, we had pressed him into selling up–a decision I think we’ve all regretted ever since.
After my father closed his shop, all bought ice cream, even the really good stuff, disappointed. So I started making my own.