Monday, 4 May 2015

Voltaire's Gelato

The people of the 17th century, say, didn't have electricity. There were no department store lighting ceremonies, no Christmas light parades. There was no Valentine's day. But were there sprinkled donuts? 
The pastel spectacle of a sinking sun in winter. The people of the 17th century could see these copper and silver tones of glacial sea water mirroring pink and translucent skies. Blankets of foam and frost-crowned sea shores with crumbled sand. There for whoever wanted to recreate it through the medium of sprinkled cupcakes. 

In a learned ice cream parlour, I once picked up an illustrated book on the history of gelato; I began to wonder how it was possible to make gelato without electricity. I pictured Voltaire having a cream cone, topped with florets of sugary roses. The delicate, transparent and fragranced presentation of candied fruits, most vividly known to me now through the cocktail cherry, is an ancient craft. I often think this fabled delicacy in its peach satin and velvet lined presentation box, draped in rose-embroidered lace napkins, as described by old authors. Every time I see raspberry lipstick in superdrug, I think of Voltaire's gelato; every time I see lace and satin corsets, I think of the fruity presentation box; and in each cute patent leather buckle, sleeps a tiny piece of Selfridge's Christmas magic. 

I speak in jest, my mouth has been to the drugstore and into the arcane land where women bear the patrimony of old fictions as an object of our culture's appetite. Women for eating, for licking, like a role-reversed of Hansel and Gretel tale : Gretel is the Hansel. She's in the cage, intended for roasting and dining out on. The girl is not fattened as much as she is starved and has her body glossed, decorated in florets and sumptuous creamy lace, laden with fragrant feathers, candy icing on her lips, and fruity little charm pendants. It's that Reverse Gretel who I see staring back at me all around from pictures and amongst the models in fashion magazines ignited by blue flames like sugar cubes in absynth.

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