Friday, August 17, 2012

ice cream in the tropics

ice cream is particularly satisfying in the tropics. it melts too quickly to brook any delay or prolongation.

in the motherland, it can be purchased (for a dollar) as a small brick sandwiched between two pieces of baked wafer from an umbrella-shaded pushcart. there must be hundred of these carts, all tended by wizened individuals with old knives sharpened to concavity. the stuff all comes in paperboard-wrapped blocks from the same creamery — always sweet corn, red bean, yam, coconut, and raspberry ripple. a decisive cut, then the cardboard skin is peeled off with the tip of the knife. specialty bars and the like can be bought, but where is the charm in those? sometimes, if you're lucky, you encounter a cart that additionally carries a vat of singapore-style neapolitan: strawberry, chocolate, and sweet corn. this you can only purchase in a stack of tiny spheres in a wafer cone or in sandwich form, wrapped in a slice of soft, sometimes multicoloured bread. at anderson ranch, i made a chocolate and strawberry ice cream sandwich on toasted scali bread. those around me retched and gagged. the ice cream sandwich on bread may be an acquired taste.

there's a reassuring continuity here. flavours, carts, wafers, knife-wielding old men and women. nothing has changed since the 1980s. years ago, one of these pushcarts used to wait on coleman street, outside the old anglo-chinese primary school and ambush us on our way to the MRT station at city hall with a tootling horn and the promise of ice cream.

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