Life on both sides of the pond: ice cream or gelato?

Reflections of a fourteen-year-old ex-pat

Jared Turkus
July 27, 2006

Ice cream here in Italy is one thing that has always interested me. Throughout my travels in Europe, I have noticed that the ice cream products are different in each country. In England they have American brands such as Ben and Jerrys, Baskin Robbins and Dreyers, but you cant buy any ice cream containers with American ice cream here. In America, they come up with the strangest ideas for ice cream. They have Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Cherry Garcia, Coffee Heath Bar Crunch and Chunky Monkey. The names are extremely creative, and the flavor is delicious, but it is more complicated than the gelato in Italy. Another new trend in America is Coldstone Ice Cream Stores, called Coldstone because they take your ice cream, add your ingredients, then roll it all up on a piece of ice cold marble before handing it over to you in a cup or cone. You can put anything in your ice cream. You could put in Reeses peanut butter cups, Oreo cookie pieces, M&Ms, cookie dough or even Heath bars. You can add as many ingredients as you want (and are charged accordingly). The ice cream is oozing with calories! It is almost as if they want to make you fat! The only flaw to this store is that the ice cream is grade-A expensive: 5 dollars for a small cup, which technically is not that small. In fact, it compares to the biggest size here in Italy. Even with all its wild flavor combinations, ice cream in the USA cannot compare to the gelato in Italy. They do not have all these unusual flavors in Italy. Rather they spend more time trying to perfect the original flavors, such as chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and strawberry. Also different between Italian gelato and America ice cream are the pricing and quantity. In America, you get charged by the scoop, and it costs 5 dollars for two average-sized scoops. It is half the price here, and Italians are so generous in the portions they serve. They just pile as much on as possible (even with a piccolo) and charge you for the cone or cup. In my favorite Italian ice cream parlor, Il Sorriso, you can get an exceptionally big cup for 2.60 euro, about half of what the cost is in America. Add some panna (whipped cream) to top it off. Why not?Ingredients also differ between my two countries. Italian gelato doesnt have artificial flavoring or unhealthy ingredients, such as fillers and food coloring used in many American brands. Italian gelato is assured to be a healthy snack or dessert, containing milk, sometimes cream, and natural flavors without additives. I would say one ordinary-sized Italian gelato has half the calories of an American ice cream of the same size. I have an Italian gelato four times a week and I dont put on any weight. If I ate ice cream in such quantities in America, I would become a bloated balloon! Another wonderful aspect about gelato is that it lures you out to have a social day with your friends and family. You meet up, go get a gelato and have a nice Saturday afternoon taking a passegiata (leisurely stroll), perhaps going site-seeing, doing a little casual shopping or just chatting. In America, there are still old fashion ice cream parlors, which are great fun. You can sit down, order banana splits, hot fudge Sundays and large quantities of ice cream. This too is social time spent with friends and family.To sum up, Id say Italian gelato is better and healthier for your daily diet, since its not oozing with fats and other additives. I do enjoy both types, but I always feel happier after taking that first exquisite and pleasurable bite of an Italian gelato, simply because it is better for the body.

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