By Theresa Blume
The first time I heard the word “gelato” was on the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond.” In one episode the Barone family went to Italy, and Robert took a spoonful of gelato for the first time.
With a look of amazement on his face, he remarked, “It’s like I’ve never tasted a peach before.” Being a dedicated desserts lover, I vowed to remember that word “gelato” and waited for the day that I could experience my own taste of it.
That was five years ago. Then one day I was wandering around Walmart by myself and happened to notice a sign on an end dairy case that said “new.” I saw small cartons of what looked like ice cream, and suddenly the word “gelato” caught my eye. Could it really be?
Yes. There were about five different flavors like chocolate with caramel, chocolate chips in mint, and more. I barely noticed the price being slightly higher than regular ice cream mainly because I did not care. I grabbed the chocolate with caramel, stuck it in my cart, and made my way to the cash register, almost forgetting what I originally intended to buy.
That evening my daughter and I tried it for the first time. It was smooth and delicious. I could have eaten the entire carton right there, but I felt like it needed to be saved for a special time.
The next day I found that special time. When my granddaughter woke up from her afternoon nap, I gave her a taste. She allowed me to spoon a small amount in to her mouth. My idea was to take turns, but as her taste buds quickly woke up, she grabbed the spoon and decided she was going to feed herself and not share any with me.
Gelato is the Italian version of ice cream. To my 15-month-old granddaughter, gelato means: go to the freezer and something very good will come out. That is my contribution to teaching her a foreign language.
There are three main differences between American ice cream and gelato.
Gelato has less cream, using more milk instead, so it has less fat, thus giving it a smoother, milkier feel along with fewer calories and less guilt for me. Also, it is churned much slower than American ice cream, making it denser with richer flavor. In addition, it is kept at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream, giving it an elastic, softer texture.
In the 1920s the first gelato cart was developed in Italy, where it is still made by hand more than any other country. Here in the U.S. we imitate the original with gelato machines that you can buy and gelato shops in the cities, and now in Marshfield we have it in ready-made cartons.
I realize it is not the same quality as if I was walking the streets somewhere in Italy, but I am OK with that for now. I am just glad that gelato has found its way over the ocean and into my freezer.