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  • Killer Ice-Cream! March 12, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback

    Beachcombing’s friends over at foodinitaly (Zach and SY) have put up a post from that magical period 1880-1900 when ice-cream was leaving the dining rooms of the super-rich and reaching the streets of northern Europe and North America.

    As with all new foods there is a period of chronic anxiety when the food in question is given unreasonable properties, either positive or negative. In the case of proletariat ice-cream there was also the fear that the food in question was sold by dangerous and ‘dirty’ Italians with earrings (see below) to the poorer British and American and German and French city folk. Then too a food that had been the traditional preserve of the rich was being passed down to the lower rungs of society: in other words here was an assault on class privilege!

    The poem itself dates to 1900 and appeared in a British newspaper on Christmas day, no less. It fits easily into the cautionary-tales genre of Northern European rhymes from that period: do cut your nails, don’t play with matches, do drink your medicine, don’t masturbate, do what nanny tells you, don’t eat ice-cream… Too bad there are no illustrations to go with it.

    Beachcombing should say, by way of background, that the boy has stolen his mother’s washing money to affect his feast.

    He loved ice-cream, this urchin lad

    With all a lover’s zest –

    Despite the paugs he often had

    Beneath his youthful vest;

    Despite the toothache’s agonies or indigestion’s pain,

    He loved and stuck to ‘coolers’, till coolers proved his pain…

    He found a grim Italian,

    Who hadn’t washed for years –

    A smiling but uncleanly man,

    With ear-rings through his ears,

    He forked his one-and-ninepence out – the boy did on the spot –

    And ordered ice-cream ‘Trilbys’ to the value of the lot.

    He fell upon each glass with greed,

    His aid a leaden spoon:

    He evidently like the feed,

    And finished thirty soon;

    As he sat beside the portable emporium or van,

    Which formed the place of business of the great (?) I-talian.

    But as he ate, a horrid chill

    Seemed creeping from his toes:

    Each spoonful caused an icy-thrill –

    In point of fact he froze!

    His limbs and body colder grew, as though without one accord,

    And soon, to use a common phrase, became as stiff as board.

    That dirty, grim Italian

    Was struck with sudden fright

    He put the urchin in the pan,

    And boiled him through the night.

    He likewise baked and roasted him, while all the time he ‘jawed’,

    But still the boy persisted in declining to be thawed.

    The foreigner tried dynamite,

    And punches, thumped, and knocks;

    And used electric shocks;

    He tickled him, stuck pins in him, but still to no avail,

    And lastly he resolved as ice, to offer him for sale.

    The thing the foreign person did

    Was vile in the extreme!

    He broke in lumps the wilful kid

    And sold him out as ‘cream’,

    And juvenile consumers with simplicity enough,

    Declared the mixture ‘proper’, ‘up to Dick’ and ‘stunning stuff’.

    Remember then the ending of the hero of my rhyme

    And the moral that it teaches, ye gentle juveniles

    Beware of ice-cream ‘coolers’ – too many at a time –

    And of the sauve I-talians icy little wiles;

    And remember when the ‘wash’ you take not to dissipate the cash

    Or be sure the grim I-talian will ‘settle quick your hash’.

    Any other food anxiety stories, poems, works? drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com