Jan 26, 2009

Presidential Ice Cream

The inauguration of President Barack Obama this last week saw millions of people rejoicing around the world in celebration of what is hoped will be a new era of world politics.

Almost 38 million Americans tuned in for the whole day's coverage on tv and many more millions watched the ceremonial part from their workplace, bars or on giant tv screens which had been set up in New York's Times Square and other major US cities. The global tv audience has, as yet, not been calculated but it's likely to be a world-record figure for a presidential inauguration.

Celebrations in the White House of course involved the traditional inaugural dinner. My first thought .... was ice cream on the menu? Not a crazy question actually because previous presidential inaugural dinners have featured ice cream.

For example, it was the 4th President of the United States, James Madison, who broke with his predecessors’ tradition of hosting simple affairs for their inaugural dinner. Madison decided to celebrate with a midnight ball for 400 guests and although there appears to be no copy of the original menu still in existence, it is believed that ice cream was served at the dinner.

The next noteworthy inaugural dinner was that of James Buchanan where, amongst many other wonderful items of food, guests were served no less than 1,200 quarts of ice cream!

So what dessert was on the 44th President’s inaugural dinner menu?
From what I have read it appears to have been apple-cinnamon sponge cake and sweet cream. Pity really because a rich vanilla ice cream would, in my opinion, have been a perfect accompaniment to the sponge cake and they could have at least offered it as an option to the sweet cream!

One thing is for sure, President Obama would have enjoyed it. We know he enjoys an ice cream cone occasionally, such as he was photographed doing on the campaign trail in August 2008 when he and his vice-presidential running mate Joe Biden took an 'ice cream break'.
See the article and photo.

It's a great photo showing two hard working politicians genuinely at ease in front of the cameras whilst they unashamedly enjoy an ice cream cone in the heat of the day.

I'm not the only one to notice President Obama's fondness for ice cream - Ben & Jerry have too. Their latest ice cream creation is called "Yes Pecan!" (a take on 'Yes We Can!"). As a flavor it's nothing new and exotic, just basically a butter pecan ice cream but B&J are calling it the unofficial Obama ice cream. Available in some of their Scoop shops during the month of January, the proceeds are to go to the Common Cause Education Fund.

If you can't get your hands on a "Yes Pecan!" don't worry - you can always make your own Butter Pecan Ice cream. It's one of my favorite all time ice cream recipes and was the 7th most popular downloaded from my website in 2008.

See the top 10 ice cream recipes list if you would like to know what the others were.

Connecting the idea of US Presidents and ice cream may not seem an obvious thing to do but I have done a little research and found it fascinating reading! The result is a new web page I have dedicated to Ice Cream and US Presidents. If nothing else, reading it will make you realise that they are just human like the rest of us.

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Jan 20, 2009

Air In Ice Cream

Of all the ingredients that go into ice cream, air is arguably the most important. Air in ice cream - sounds crazy? Not at all. You just need to stop and think about it and you will realise why.

When I was a child (and it's not that long ago really!), ice cream was only available in one of two ways - from our weekly ice cream man in his ice cream truck or at the local grocery store where they was usually a freezer with a few rectangular cardboard boxed blocks of vanilla or raspberry ripple ice cream.

Then, suddenly, it all changed .... and soft serve ice cream was born - principally the result of adding more air into the manufacturing process. Amongst the pioneers in this field was no less than the now Baroness Margaret Thatcher. She was part of a research term in the UK who worked for a British ice cream manufacturer and whose job it was to improve the manufacturing process and make it more profitable. This they did by adding more air into it. Read more about on my Ice Cream & Political Passion blog post.

You might think that manufacturers might be tempted to put more and more air into their ice cream to make even bigger profits of course - but you would be wrong. First of all, most countries have legislation governing the maximum percentage of air allowed in ice cream - usually accepted as 50%. Secondly, the texture and taste would be so poor that people simply would not buy it. Without a doubt, the best quality ice cream in my opinion has the least air in it at about 20%. When you make your own homemade ice cream you can experiment with how much air you put into it - whether you do the mixing by hand or just control the churning time in your ice cream maker. Try and see. You'll be amazed how the volume of air makes a difference!

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Jan 6, 2009

Celebrate A Centenary In 2009 - With Ice Cream!

So 2009 is here. What is going to make this year special or notable of course remains to be seen but here are four interesting sets of facts that make 2009 a centenary celebration year.

16 January 1909
This was the date when Ernest Shackleton's expedition found the magnetic South Pole. He was only 35 at the time. British by birth, Shackleton went on to become one of the greatest explorers of his age.

23 February 1909
This was when the first powered flight in Canada (and what was at that time the British Empire) took place. Achieved by the Silver Dart.

15 March 1909
In London, England, Selfridges department store first opened its doors.

25 July 1909
This was the day that Louis Bleriot made the first flight across the English Channel in a heavier-than-air machine.

All achievements to be admired. Well .... you might have your doubts about number 3 on my list but in fact I think Selfridges merits being there because in a world of seemingly constant change, knowing that there's a department store that has been trading for 100 years is somehow very comforting.

I was once a frequent shopper at Selfridges (in my London days) and would not hesitate to put it on my itinerary when in London again, even on just a day trip. The food hall there is fabulous; they even have a Morellis Gelato within the store where you can indulge in one of their wonderful ice cream specials. The mastery in the 'behind the scenes' ice cream making at places like this is exemplified in my interview with Gino Soldan master gelatiere for Morellis Gelato in Harrods. This photograph is just a snippet of the magnificient ice cream sundae he made especially for my friend Mary. Now that's a good way to celebrate anything - even a centenary!

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