Oct 10, 2009

French Ice Cream

Last weekend I cooked dinner for my family and some visiting friends. We all like Thai food so I opted to cook a Thai red chicken curry, served with rice, noodles and some fresh spinach. For dessert I served fresh fruit (blueberries, strawberries, chopped banana and peach) accompanied by homemade vanilla ice cream ... freshly made. It was so fresh that I had the ice cream maker churning whilst we were still eating the main course! It was delicious - honestly, I am not just saying that; everyone at the table echoed the feeling with my husband saying it was the best vanilla ice cream he had ever tasted! The recipe, which is on ice-cream-recipes.com of course (just follow the link above), is what I call a custard base ice cream and uses a real vanilla pod, fresh eggs, fresh milk, sugar and fresh cream. Essentially this is "French ice cream" because it requires a cooked egg custard.

Many years ago, using the term French ice cream inferred it was the best possible ice cream that you might find on a restaurant menu. One example is that of the RMS Titanic's first and second class dining menus - "French Ice Cream" for first class passengers and "American Ice Cream" for second class. Read my "Ice Cream & Class Distinction On The RMS Titanic" post from 2008.

Since those days of course the world has changed a lot and I doubt very much if the French only eat French ice cream! They definitely have a passion for ice cream though and I know this for 2 reasons ....

  • Firstly, the statistics from ice-cream-recipes.com show a significant number of visitors from France, searching in French for the term "glaces maison" (homemade ice cream)
  • Secondly, a friend who enjoys taking holidays in France - especially in and around Poitou Charentes - tells me that the ice cream there is always very, very good.

There are of course lots of other 'national' variations on ice cream such as Italian ice cream but that's a post for another day!

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Apr 30, 2008

Ice Cream & Class Distinction On The RMS Titanic

One of the interests within my family is maritime history, perhaps not surprisingly as we originate from the British Isles where seafaring is an ingrained in our sense of heritage and culture. There is much within the subject to be interested in dating back centuries, but perhaps the most significant impact ever made by a single maritime event was the tragedy of the British passenger liner RMS Titanic. which sank at 2.20am on 15 April 1912.

The sense of tragedy about the RMS Titanic was not just about the loss of the (then) world's largest and greatest liner or about it having happened on its maiden voyage, but the scale and sense of human loss. Loss in terms of lost lives and also in terms of people's loss of confidence in the future. Up until the tragedy, people of that era had seemed so sure of being in control of their fate, of technology and 'progress'. The tragedy still echoes within the minds of people today, almost 100 years later and as the end of April approaches I felt it somehow appropriate to write this article.

With my strong interest in food and recipes, especially ice cream, I wondered what kind of food was on the menu for that fateful voyage. The wide selection of books we have at home on the subject provided me with some answers. To my surprise, ice cream was on both the first and second class menus for RMS Titanic on 14 April 1912 - the last day the ship ever saw daylight.

The first class menu listed "French Ice Cream" and the second class menu listed "American Ice Cream". Clearly in those days, people felt there was a difference sufficient to be reflected within class distinction. A strange notion today given how massively popular ice cream is and how it seems to transcend all class and cultural barriers.

To see a scan of the second class menu on RMS Titanic for 14 April 1912 (showing "American Ice Cream") go to the website of the National Maritime Museum - here

To see the list of what appeared on the first class menu including "French Ice Cream" go to the Webtitanic site (an Irish tribute) - here

For anyone interested in the difference between the two types of ice cream, "French Ice Cream" is generally regarded as a richer and more complex recipe as it requires a custard base to be made first.

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