13 November 2010

At the Seaside - Part Four

When you think of ice cream, do you think of the seaside? Is ice cream something you connect with the Belle Époque, Art Nouveau, and elegant ice cream parlours serving extravagant ice cream sundaes? Is ice cream something you associate with Italy?

Wikipedia - Ice cream and its history

Wikipedia - Gelato - Italian ice cream

Something more mundane to think about is refrigeration. Not all of us have access to a snowy mountain in the summer time or big blocks of ice gathered from glaciers, which is all very well for the environment, but how do you make ice cream during an Australian summer?

How would ice cream have been made in the back streets of Melbourne in the 1890s or in Geelong in 1912? In either case, you may wish to consult my husband's ancestors.

Two young Italian men were probably in Geelong at the time this picture was taken, at the opening of the tramway in 1912:

Advancements in the development of refrigeration, in the mid 1850s, were due to the inventiveness of a man in Geelong called James Harrison, who was the first person to create an ice-making machine. He is someone well worth knowing about whenever you need to keep something chilled or frozen:

Wikipedia - James Harrison (1816-1893)

Wikipedia - Geelong and its history

Wikipedia - Refrigeration and its history

Geelong is at the seaside, as are many of Australia's larger cities and towns. The two Italian brothers went there in 1912 to establish their own ice cream making business. One of them became my husband's grandfather. The other never had children and never married, but he went back to Italy with the money he made in Australia.

My husband's great uncle was known as Peter or Pierino. He invested in property in the town of Cremona during the Fascist era of the 1920s and 1930s. It was a time in which Australian money was worth a great deal more than Italian currency, which meant that one of the buildings he bought was a very large Art Nouveau one in the Liberty style:

Much of the family history I have been exploring is from the time of the Belle Époque: The late 19th and early 20th centuries in Europe. It was a time of poverty for many people, yet one in which hopes of, and plans for, a better future were rapidly rising. Something similar was happening in Australia and North America.

Wikipedia - The Belle Époque

Wikipedia - Art Nouveau

Then came the First World War. It changed lives and took lives away. It is not an era I associate with ice cream or beauty. Even though I studied the First World War in anglo-centric history lessons at school, I never associated Italy with the "Great War", either. That changed when I started researching my husband's family history, and the Grande Guerra (as the war is known in Italy).

Nor did I associate Italy with Art Nouveau architecture. Italian architecture is something I have always associated with much earlier eras. The age of much of Italy's architecture is one of the reasons why it now costs so much money to maintain:

Wikipedia - An Introduction to Italian Architecture

After reading this blog post and visiting its links, you may be feeling ready for an ice cream yourself, or even a gelato. If the weather is nice tomorrow, I might go to the beach and buy myself a little tub of something. Which flavour should I choose? Which one would you prefer?

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I especially appreciate historical insights.