There’s nothing like digging into ice creams, be they home-made or from your nearest eatery

Cookie dough ice cream sounds so cloyingly soppy. Like something one of those nauseatingly svelte Mills and Boons heroines would eat, as she hums ‘Someday my Prince will come.’ But, amazingly, it works with almost everyone. In fact, popular ice cream makers Ben & Jerry say they knew they “were onto something big” when they experimented with the flavour in 1986. “It took us a while to iron out the details,” says the company website, “but in 1991 we finally rolled the world’s first dough — in pints — out of the door and into ice cream history.”

It works because ice cream reminds everyone of their childhood. Sneakily sticking their fingers into bowls of buttery cake mix before it’s put in the oven, and pocketing fistfuls of cookie dough, studded with chocolate chips or walnuts. Of baking summer days and drippy cones with swirls of bright strawberry, cool vanilla and velvety chocolate.

Home-made delicacies

If you come from a family that believed in homemade ice-cream, it’s probably tough to find anything that matches those old fashioned scoops of thick creamy milk, frozen around chunky fresh fruits: chopped strawberries, intense mango or just comfortingly familiar banana. And even if you didn’t spend your growing years messing around the kitchen, nostalgic ice cream memories — I’ll bet — include luridly coloured cassata slices, delightfully silly sip-ups in plastic tubes and decadent sundaes smothered in chocolate fudge.

International flavours too reflect childhood memories. Like strawberry cheesecake ice-cream or Christmas pudding ice-cream. However, there’s something about ice-cream that tempts everyone to experiment. Perhaps it’s the innovative home cook who pours beer into his cornflakes, and then is so astonished by his own ingenuity that he invents vanilla-chocolate chip-whiskey-yesterday’s trifle pudding. Or the free spirit who came up with luscious avocado ice-cream, now popular at local fetes in California. Or the most dangerous/interesting of the three: the professional who’s trying to make history.

From these adventurous kitchens come flavours such as Brown bread ice-cream or the Japanese Wasabi ice-cream. Or Eel, squid and Lobster ice cream. Or Michelin starred Chef Heston Blumenthal – of molecular gastronomy fame – and his famous ‘bacon and egg’ ice-cream.

This all-consuming obsession could also explain why vegans, dieters and lactose-intolerant people have made the effort to come up with a product like ‘dairy-free ice cream,’ made with fruit, tofu and soya milk. They’re not always virtuous recipes, thank goodness. Take the tellingly titled ‘Chubby Hubby chocolate peanut butter tofu Ice Cream’, made with silken tofu and sweetened with maple syrup and chocolate chips.

Closer home, if you’re fed up with the often cloying packaged stuff, and have lost faith in the fancy, overpriced “we just flew this in Business class from Switzerland,’ ice-cream, here’s a pleasant surprise. Saravana Bhavan. Honestly. They quietly slipped into the market, and are now doling out their own fabulously creamy natural ice-cream, in surprisingly exotic flavours. Check out the counter at Spencer Plaza, where they give you generous samples in stainless steel spoons. (Oh joy! Finally, an ice-cream bar that doesn’t spew out plastic.) They have tender coconut, litchi, musk melon, banana, mango, chikku, custard apple and even jackfruit, along with all the more traditional flavours – made fresh every day in their Vadapalini unit. The fruits they say are fresh, and carefully sourced — “jack fruit from Kerala and Alphonso mangoes from Ratnagiri, Maharashtra” and the product is made with real cream. (“Super rich ice-cream… real fruits combined with love” as their advertising line goes.) The best part? It’s less than Rs. 25 for a scoop.

And, in a bow to innovation, they even have an admittedly strange but innovative ‘mukkani’ ice-cream made of jackfruit, banana and mango. Take that, Ben and Jerry!

The Reluctant Gourmet is no food connoisseur. But she’s learning, (and really working the treadmill). Food and wine snobs won’t find much fancy terminology here. (She can barely pronounce ‘Foie Gras’). But if you simply enjoy food and dining, and all the drama built around both, this weekly column could be your new best friend.

Keywords: ice-cream