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Carst and Walker
Ice cream

Ice cream: why we love it and how it’s getting better

Ice cream does do something funny to a lot of us: it makes us nostalgic and happy and, if you take your cues from Bridget Jones, it helps us recover from heartbreak. The world is more colourful, slower-paced and simply more fun with an ice cream. There are a few reasons why this is the case… This great essay charts the artisan reinvention of the world’s favourite comfort food.

We are particularly conditioned to like foods that change texture in our mouths: as ice cream melts from solid to liquid, it keeps our brains interested. When you lick an ice cream, the emulsion covers all the sensors of your tongue, from back to front, making your taste buds sing with sweet, savoury and sharp sensations.

It is easy to digest and places very low on something called the satiety index, which means you can eat a lot without feeling unpleasantly full.

There’s more good news: until now, we have basically been eating the crap stuff. Britain’s greatest contribution to global ice-cream culture has been the popularisation of soft serve. Whether this highly aerated, minimally nutritious confection was actually invented in the United States or here remains fiercely contested, though sadly the myth that Margaret Thatcher was involved in its creation while working as a research chemist at the food conglomerate J Lyons & Co has been fairly thoroughly debunked.

Still, beyond Mr Whippy, we have recently started to develop a rich and fulfilling ice-cream culture.

Heston Blumenthal, who famously served bacon-and-egg ice cream at his restaurant The Fat Duck, has made a range of marginally less insane ice creams for Waitrose for a while now. Artisan makers are popping up all over the country: Gelupo, Sorbitium Ices and La Grotta Ices in London, Ginger’s Comfort Emporium in Manchester and Affogato in Edinburgh being among the more ambitious.

Camden’s Chin Chin Laboratorists is the first liquid nitrogen ice-cream parlour in Europe. It serves Pondicherry vanilla, 80% Valrhona chocolate and a guest flavour that in July was “ice cream that tastes of the smell of green grass”.

If you must count calories, there are promising developments, too. The R&D team at Unilever, the British-Dutch behemoth that makes 40% of the ice creams we eat in the UK – Magnum, Ben & Jerry’s, Cornetto and Carte D’Or among them – has invested heavily to create products that are both healthier and creamier.

Some of the terminology sounds slightly terrifying. “Ice-structuring protein” creates an increased number of smaller ice crystals and enables a lower fat content. A process known as “patented single screw cold extruder technology” reduces air bubbles and maintains a smooth texture. However, part of the indulgence of eating ice cream is not thinking too hard about how it’s made. At least it doesn’t contain whale fat, which was legal until the 80s.

So, our favourite food is becoming weirder, tastier and, when made the right way, it almost qualifies as nutritious…..

The Guardian: Read the full article

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