Monday, July 2, 2012

There's nothing wrong with me a little ice cream won't fix

Life is like an ice-cream cone, you have to lick it one day at a time. Charles M. Schulz


It used to be that ice cream was available in Israel only in the summer. But it was available everywhere. Just about every street corner had a small shop selling ice cream out of tubs, three scoops for about 50 cents. It was really hard, in those days, to limit myself to one ice cream (of three scoops) a day. The ice cream was just pleading with me to come and eat it, to try a new flavor, to have some more. And it was awfully good; thick and sweet, and with so many different flavors, and cheap.
The ice cream market in Israel today has changed completely. It’s still plentiful, but there are few corner shops still selling scoops out of tubs. Most kiosks sell ice cream on a stick or packaged ice cream, but if you want a cone, you have to go into a bona fide ice cream shop. Thankfully, they’re not hard to find, though the 50 cents for three scoops is long gone.
There used to be two major brands of ice cream here; Whitman and Strauss. But Strauss bought Whitman in 1979, and for a short time had the lion’s share of the ice cream market in Israel. Little competition didn’t do a lot for the quality of the product.
Luckily, in 1996, Nestle, partnering with Osem, bought two smaller ice cream companies (neither were very good, I remember) moved the factories to Kiryat Malachi, and began producing quality ice cream.
Nestle has brought in low fat ice cream (Skinny Cow it’s called), unique flavors – such as strawberry n’ cream and mocha-pistachio – and recently added Angry Bird popsicles to its repertoire.
But never mind the two main ice cream producers. They’re boring. Israel has, in the last decade or so, become an ice cream paradise. Small ice cream manufacturers have popped up everywhere. There is Italian style gelato, ice cream made from goat’s milk, (I’ve heard there’s ice cream made from camel milk too, but I wouldn’t know) and special Israeli flavors such as pomegranate, tangerine, mango with basil, arak, baklava, and even hummus. I’m waiting for schnitzel flavored ice cream next.
My favorite brand, of course, is Glida Beer Sheva. Started in the Beer Sheva kitchen of Julia Rotenberg from Poland, Glida Beer Sheva (which means, surprisingly enough, Beer Sheva Ice Cream) began producing quality ice cream in the 1950s long before there was even a market for it. Opening her first shop in the commercial area of Beer Sheva, Glida Beer Sheva now has six branches in Beer Sheva (all bustling) and seven others around the country. The factory long ago moved out of the kitchen and out of Beer Sheva (it’s produced in Kiryat Gat), but the name remains. Julia herself died in 2005 at the age of 93.
I actually eat more Glida Beer Sheva outside of Beer Sheva than I do inside the city. Unfortunately, most of the branches in Beer Sheva are open on Shabbat, rendering them non-kosher, though the ice cream itself is. But I fear that’s about to change. Glida Beer Sheva has just opened a new branch on the Ben-Gurion University campus, two buildings down from mine. Even now, I hear my name being called…..

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