Here is real retro food: Neapolitan ice cream. In a brick!

Neapolitan ice cream in a brick

Does this picture take you back to dessert time at the dinner table of your childhood? I hope so!

I know I have bored you good people many times with what a kick I get out of vintage cookbooks. Well, brace yourself: I found another dandy one a few days ago. And in leafing through it, I came across a good old childhood memory that I’m sure you share – if, that is, your childhood was in the 1950s, ’60s or ’70s. But let’s begin this little yarn at the beginning.

The cookbook in question, which I found at one of my favourite local places – the Thrift Store on St. Lawrence Street West in Madoc; I have discovered some great vintage treasures there, though you have to be persistent and patient – is one in a series of midcentury (the last century, that is) cooking volumes put out by the Better Homes and Gardens folks. The is one is PIES AND CAKES:

Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes

As with all my favourite vintage cookbooks, it’s got a mix of recipes that sound outstanding (the ones for “Mother’s Best Fudge Cake” and “Red Devil’s Food Cake” are what really got me) and disgusting. The worst? Probably “Della Robbia Torte”:

Della Robbia Torte

Seriously? “Cake mix, pudding mix, canned fruit, and jelly glaze”? Yuck!

That one was in the book’s section called “New Tricks With Cake Mixes.” Also in that section is this recipe:

Neapolitan Cake

Which, as I looked it over, got me thinking: what the heck ever happened to once-ubiquitous Neapolitan ice cream? Is that chocolate-strawberry-vanilla combo still made? Do people still buy  it?

And then, as I thought back to the days of my childhood at the Manse, when a brick of Neapolitan ice cream was a pretty common sight on my family’s kitchen table at dessert time, another weighty question came to mind:

What ever happened to ice cream in bricks?

Do you remember how there were both the big bricks – a gallon of ice cream, maybe? – and the small ones? (Was that a pint? What is a pint, anyway?)

Of course I decided to do some field research. Which involved scanning the freezer shelves of our local Foodland store to see if I could find a) Neapolitan ice cream and b) ice cream in bricks. And ideally (for the retro-lover in me) a combination of the two.

And I did! It turns out that the folks at Chapman’s Ice Cream still make bricks, and Neapolitan is one of the flavours:

Chapman's Neapolitan ice cream

But all the other ice-cream manufacturers represented on the Foodland’s shelves had moved to the tubs that (I now suddenly remember) started to get popular somewhere in the mid-1970s. And, I am sorry to say, while there were big bricks from Chapman’s, the small ones seem to have disappeared, quite possibly forever.

“So,” you must be asking yourself, “how was the Neapolitan ice cream?” (Because you knew, of course, that I had to buy some.) Well, I’ll tell you. Raymond and I opened up the brick last night, in honour of the visit by our good friend Lynn (which I wrote about here) and also in honour of the final game in the latest instalment of the Boston Bruins-Montreal Canadiens rivalry – itself a thoroughly vintage thing. And Raymond, Lynn and I had a bowl each.

And it was – well, good. Especially in that it reminded us all of our childhood.

And hey, what’s wrong with that?

8 thoughts on “Here is real retro food: Neapolitan ice cream. In a brick!

  1. Thanks again for a really great time and for that bowl of neopolitan ice cream. The strawberry is still repeatin’ on me! Go Habs Go!

  2. Neapolitan was a favorite of mine until strawberries were put on the ‘suspect’ list for my allergies. They still sell them in ‘bricks’ down here, but it has moved towards a more rounded edge rectangle tub, which has it’s own removable top. I can remember scooping the ice cream out of the bricks, but at the end of the brick, so as to limit the surface exposure of the ice cream to a smaller surface area – fresher ice cream because less is exposed? I don’t know. All I know is that we never used the “open here” pull, we just opened the end.
    http://www.hood.com/uploadedImages/Hood/Products/Ice_Cream/Red_Sox_Ice_Cream/Fenway%20Fudge.jpg?n=9907 (This is what we have now, which recently transitioned from this: http://static.caloriecount.about.com/images/medium/hood-ice-cream-chocolate-59921.jpg)

    Did you ever have Hoodsie Cups? I’m assuming that Raymond might have…..

    • Wow, yes, Nicole, thanks to you I now remember opening those “bricks” from the end in order to, as you say, reduce surface exposure. And thanks for the images of Hood’s ice cream! Raymond and I both love Hood’s (he of course because of fond memories from his youth).

    • Raymond brightened right up when I mentioned Hoodie Cups! “With the flat wooden spoon!” he said. We had similar ice-cream cups when I was a kid, but I think the ice cream was Sealtest. I can still taste that wooden spoon in my mouth after I’d sucked away all the ice cream that had been on it.

  3. I think Chapman’s is very close to the ice cream that I remember as a kid (before everybody decided that HD, B&J and B&R were the only worthy brands), and I’m glad it’s in the old brick style. My grandmother used to buy a five-gallon tub of maple walnut which was made by a local dairy (local, being the Kingston area). I loved Neapolitan, but I was not a fan of chocolate when I was a kid (things changed when I discovered dark chocolate later on), so it would be the last of the three flavours for me.

    Now, these cookbooks are always a hit. I love them! I have a couple from that era, plus some of the H&G ones of the early 80s, but it’s the 60s books that are my favourites. I can remember begging my mother to make a three-layer cake because I had seen it in one of those books, and she did, even though she only had two pans and had to re-use one to make the third layer. And, did the cake taste any different from two layers? No. As a matter of fact, it was harder to cut because it tended to fall apart. Still, that idea of a three-layer cake came from those books.

    The recipe for the Neapolitan Cake sounds like a scream, although I have never liked any of those “whip” toppings. If the topping isn’t made with real whipped cream, then I’m afraid I will never like it — I don’t care how “dreamy” or “cool” it is.

    • Sash, you and I are so much alike on so many things! When I was a kid I too always dreamed of a three-layer cake (chocolate, of course!) after seeing pictures in cookbooks. But my mum, like yours, only had two cake pans, so two layers was as far as we ever got. But my dreams of a three-layer cake happened all over again when I leafed through my new (well, from 1966) Better Homes and Gardens Pies and Cakes cookbook because (you guessed it) it’s full of those pictures! I think I may actually have to try one myself.

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