Our first Mother’s Day adventure abroad, was spent in Italy.
Joe was very excited to visit the Roman Colosseum, as that was all he talked about for weeks prior to the trip.
After a visit to the bank to exchange our dollars for Lire, (before the Eur0) we walked to the Piazza Navona.
A small table in this famous plaza is where my son enjoyed his very “first gelato” (the same place I enjoyed mine with my mother).
Consumed year round, morning, noon and night, Sicilians are passionate about gelati … it’s not just a frozen treat, it’s part of our culture!
History tells us flavored ices date back to ancient China, but the first frozen dessert in Italy actually came from Sicily.
Arabs brought an icy treat of frozen water, fruit and honey, which evolved to become known as granita.
Gelare, in Italian means “to freeze” and In Italy, any frozen dessert (gelato, granita or sorbetto) is simply called gelato.
In America, gelato refers to a mixture made with a cream-milk base, and a sorbet (non-dairy frozen treat) is made with water and fruit juice.
So, what is the difference between Italian gelati and American ice-cream?
Both products use basically the same ingredients (milk, cream, sugars, flavor ingredients and eggs).
The percentage of butterfat and the amount of air that gelati and ice-cream contain is the major difference.
It may surprise you that gelati, with it’s rich-tasting, creamy, silky-smooth, softer texture, actually has less butterfat (and calories) than ice-cream (5-8% vs 10-25%). The primary ingredient is whole milk (not cream). This lower fat content means that less air (20%) is whipped into it as it is simultaneously frozen, resulting in a denser product with intensified flavor.
In Italy, a gelateria makes small batches using only fresh, seasonal ingredients without preservatives or artificial coloring (so it’s consumed when it’s fresh) and keeps the gelati in long shallow pans in a forced-air freezer.
Conversely, American ice-cream’s main ingredient is heavy cream and incorporates 75% (or higher) air into the product. The ice-cream is stored in large, deep tubs at a colder temperature than it’s Italian friend.
(Because whole milk sold in Italy is richer than that in the U.S. many American recipes for gelati include some cream).
Whether you are in an Italian gelateria in the piazza or an American ice-cream parlor in your neighborhood, this frozen treat brings families together. In a cono (cone) or a coppa, (cup) ice-cream or gelati, both come with love and laughter, giggles and grins, a youthful, light-heartedness that lifts our spirits, helps us slow down and appreciate the simple things in life, count our blessings and our cherished memories.