This is a Mary Taylor Simeti interpretation of Sicilian ice cream, as made by her neighbourhood gelato maestro in Palermo. She painstakingly reproduced it at home so she can, in her words, “survive when he closes down for winter…”.
This delightful gelato meets with raptures in our house, too, for it recaptures the lost taste of my beloved’s favourite childhood ice cream, and that of his parents’ before him, which was made in the industrial Midlands town of Belper in Derbyshire by a family of Italian immigrants. The story is this: Giuseppe (Joe) Corrado was sent to Belper as a WWII prisoner of war. He stayed on to marry a local woman named Mary Mazza, whose Italian immigrant father had started Mazza’s Ices in 1928, selling scoops from a hand cart. Together Mary and Joe ran the family business after the war from a tiny shop that opened through a serving hatch onto a cobbled lane up from Belper Junior School. In operation for just those months between the clocks going forward and then back again, vanilla was the only flavour they made, and it was all anyone could have wished for, served at that delectable point of perfect softness in little cups, or cones, or sandwiched between plain wafers.
I was lucky enough to taste Mazza’s ice cream myself, as I came onto the scene a few summers before Joe and Mary finally retired in the early 1990s, after 45 years of charming generations of locals. I was among thousands of fans who adored the purity and texture of this heavenly treat at a time when dairy ice cream was still a rarity in Britain, and its taste lingered long in my memory, too. Imagine the joy when I finally discovered how they may have worked such magic. The secret I thought so elusive was down to the quality of a few simple ingredients. [Read More…]