Waffle wala, double

by Ashish

Ice-creams today, and I deeply regret having to say this, are bereft of romance. They taste wonderful, look very attractive in their resplendent packaging and come in flavours I could not possibly have imagined when I was in school – but they are very definitely a packaged goods industry today. There is no imagination associated with them today, no whiff of magic, no tinge of other-worldliness. It’s all much too bland.

For instance, there is nothing today, across the product range of all the ice-cream companies vying for market share in India, to compete with a cassata. Cassata was pure, undiluted cerebral achievement of the highest order. It was ice-cream and sponge cake packaged together. Large packs would be broken upon at family parties, and us kids used to die of excess salivation at the very thought. There was an outer layer of pink ice-cream, an inner layer of green ice-cream, and then an innermost layer of sponge cake. Heaven, I tell you.

Another favorite was a plastic ball that doubled as an ice-cream cup. I’m not making this up. A white ball, with a blue lid on top. Pry open the blue lid, and there would be ice-cream in residence within, as promised. Gobble up the ice-cream, and use ball to create a suitably loud cacophony during somnolent afternoons. What genius!

And then there was the ice-cream sandwich. Two large, chocolate-y biscuits and a soul satisfyingly large wedge of vanilla ice-cream that lay in between. So thick was the wedge, in fact, that your incisors would positively ache from the freezing cold that suddenly enveloped them. As a kid, products such as these gave you hope. Adults, these ice-creams seemed to tell you, aren’t always tall, forbidding and too full of common sense. Some of them, these ice-creams would say, use their time wisely and well.

And finally, there was the softy machine. Invented, or so I was told by an authoritative uncle outside Pastuers on MG Road, because some Italian entrepreneur tried to come up with an ice-cream machine that didn’t quite work – these softy ice-creams were waffle cone wonders. Filled to the brim and then some with a thick, soft, luscious ice-cream, it would pile upon itself in ever more enticing layers, culminating in a tip that would self-deprecatingly droop to one side. Adroit entrepreneurs would give you cones with two flavours at one go, or even better, coat the ice-cream with a chocolate sauce that would immediately harden. No matter what combination one chose, a softy ice-cream was, it seemed to me back then, the very pinnacle of human endeavour.

But over time, these ice-creams have disappeared from shelves. You still get the softy ice-cream, of course, and in a lot many more places than just Pasteurs on MG Road. But the ball, the cassata and the sandwich, not so much. They put in occasional appearances every now and then, but more as a matter of novelty than being par for the course.

What you get nowadays are tubs of ice-cream, some of which are even ashamed to call themselves as such, and instead classify themselves as frozen dairy products. We live in a sad world indeed, if ice-cream cannot call itself ice-cream.

But you know what writing about ice-cream has made me do? It has made me hunger for a suitably large cone of the best that the local ice-cream parlour has to offer. Excuse me while I go and get myself a large vanilla and chocolate double flavour, with a chocolate coating on top. Yum!