All nice things either are prohibited or you put on weight easily and fast because of them. But the latter are really lovely and sweet and chocolate maniacs (like me) cannot live without them. The bitter water and l’amore dolce, in particular, are so seducing and irresistible so that we cannot give up on them all our life. The same effect has another sweet but cold and icy temptation which will make you scream for … ice cream.
It is indisputable and there is no doubt about the Italian origin of the “sweet ice”. Why? The Habsburg of Naples as well as the House of Medici in Florence were notorious for their skills to add snow and ice in their wines and desserts and that’s why Florence has been known as the Mecca of ice cream ever since. Even though ice cream is of Italian origin, it was introduced to the public for the first time and it became famous, actually, in France. And how exactly did it happen?
Two members from the fair gender from the House of Medici became Queens of France. This way, they contributed to the “diffusion” of the Medici’s Renaissance world and culture outside Italy. Catherine de’ Medici got married to King Henry II in 1533 and was the mother of three future French Kings. She was very influential in the politics at that time but apart from this there are some interesting facts about her. For example, she laid the foundations of the French cuisine. Before her arrival in France the French court recognized and enjoyed medieval meals and concoctions only. When she got married and came to France she brought several Italian cooks with her. They introduced more refined recipes for more balanced and healthier dishes to their French colleagues which were immediately copied and used in France. Moreover, The Queen also brought with her some sweet treats al dente like ice cream and zabaglione (an Italian dessert and sometimes a beverage from egg yolks, sugar and Marsala sweet wine).
Speaking about ice-cream more precisely, it was prepared by a Florentine guy for first time. His name was Ruggeri and as a matter of fact, he was a butcher who was a passionate lover and admirer of cooking and cuisine. He is supposed to have been the “inventor” of ice cream due to the mixture of cream, zabaglione and fruit, which he usually prepared and which brought him much fortune in Paris. Moreover, he was the one who prepared that sweet and creamy “concoction” for the marriage of Caterina de’ Medici and Enrico d’Orléans.
Later, the story of ice cream continued being tightly and closely connected to Italy and another Italian – Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli. He was from Sicily and he managed to make the ice mixture we all know and appreciate today. Francesco Procopio Cutò used one invention of his grandfather whose name was also Francesco, and thus he turned the preparation of ice cream into business. The Grandfather was a Sicilian fisherman and every time he dedicated his spare time to the studies of apparatus for the production of ice cream which increased the quality of the sweet-icy temptation. Having succeeded in his intention, Francesco Senior decided to leave that apparatus into heritage to his grandson.
Being tired of his life of a fisherman after so many years, Procopio just reached a decision to continue his grandpa’s studies on the apparatus. He made some tests and finally he decided to wander in the world looking for his luck and fortune. Thus he arrived in Paris after a lot of ups and downs. He understood the use of sugar instead of honey and the usage of salt mixed with ice which made the mixture exist longer. That helped him change and increase its quality and it was greatly acknowledged by locals in Paris. They called him a “genius inventor”. Later, in 1686, Procopio Cutò, opened the famous coffeehouse-restaurant which was the heartbeat of the city and a preferable place for intellectuals, politicians, revolutionists, etc., i.e. Café Procope, where a great variety of ice cream was served.
Being on the ice-cream topic today, I cannot omit to say that I love lemon-flavoured “sweet-ice” but my favourite is the pistachio one. I adore pistachio flavour also in other sweets like croissants, i cornetti, in cakes, etc. And do you know what pistachio is, as a matter of fact? Well, il pistacchio (in Italian) is a tree which can reach a height of 12 metres and can “live” about 300 years. Its origins are from the Middle East, in Persia in particular, where it was cultivated even in prehistoric times. The Arabs brought it and introduced it to the West. Nowadays pistachio is grown in the Middle East, California e in China (in the recent years). Italy also grows il pistacchio, mainly in Sicily (Bronte and Adrano). As its usage is concerned, it is used peeled or shelled, roasted or salted. It’s highly spread out in confectionery for the preparation of ice-cream, cream, juices and even sausages (e.g. la mortadella from Bologna) as well as it’s a typical dressing for the first and second dishes.
So, if you have already got the desire to have an ice-cream, let’s order to the waiter: Gelato al pistacchio, per favore. 🙂