jueves, 12 de junio de 2014

A brief history of Gelato

Summer's coming, and nothing seems more appropriate to us than share with you a good Gelato! Refreshing, tasty, creamy, gelato has it all! Ice creams are probably World's favourite sweet, but what's behind it? What's your history, gelato? We all know it's a typical italian gastonomical product, but how was it invented? During ancient times, we know that fruits, honeys and milk was conserved in cold rooms filled with ice and snow, called icebox. Then, during the Arab domination of southern Italy, Sicily and Spain, the sugar cane arrived to Europe, and they started to sweeten a little bit the simple sorbet they used to eat.

There are various legends and history about who invented the modern ice cream first. Very popular is the story about Ruggeri da Firenze, who was very famous in Renaissance era Florence for a iced and creamy sweet dish made with milk cream, italian eggnog (zabajone) and fruits. Its dish was so popular at the time that even Catherine of Medicis wanted it at her royal wedding with Henry of Orleans. The Tuscan-born queen of France brought then others things along with ice cream, like bechamel sauce, foie gras or also the fashonable macarons (or their grandma), creating in this way the french cuisine. Today's ice cream seemed to be a little bit later. We're in Sicily now, in year 1686, when the chef Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli finally managed to perfection the until then still not-so-working creation of his grandpa Francesco, a machine to produce Gelato!

Voltaire and Diderot eating a Procopio's gelato
Francesco Procopio innovated using sugar (of arab sicilian ascent) instead of honey and using the salt to mix it with the ice, in order to make it last longer. This revolutionary machine had such a blasting success in his Sicily, and overall in his city, Catania, that Francesco Procopio decided to export it in Europe, internationalizing his creation. He decided to take the same route that Catherine of Medicis walked some centuries before him, and opened in Paris his gelateria, the Cafè Procope. Parisians went absolutely nuts about the sicilian man, and it became a mythological cafè in the city of St. Genevieve, where everyone from Voltaire to Victor Hugo, from Diderot to D'Alembert stopped by, and we imagine them with a cup of gelato discussing about the Encyclopedie. Even a young military used to stop by, he was from Corsica, and he was called Napoleon Bonaparte.

Vintage ice cream machine

We've seen that it seems to be an urban legend the fact that the gelato would be a neapolitan creation, even if their gelato is really really amazing.
At the end of the XIX century, the first economical gelateria shops started to appears. Ice cream started to become less and less expensive, and one of the oldest modern days working gelateria in Europe is the Pepino, in Turin, that started its production in 1884, that eventually became the official ice cream provider of the italian Royal House of Savoy. With the creation of cheap freezing systems, the gelato became a mass product, but we'll have the chance to discover the history of the Cornetto, of the Magnum and of the others mythical industrial ice creams in another occasion, since is a really interesting history too!



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