It’s always ice cream season

Shabnam Minwalla | Updated on January 09, 2018

Be it January or June, Mumbai never loses appetite for chills

There are disadvantages to living in a city with such few seasons.

Unlike New Yorkers, we can’t welcome the autumn with apple tarte tartins and the winter with warming soups. Unlike Dilliwalas, we can’t switch between winter woollies and summer muslins. (Umbrellas and toe-amputating rubber booties don’t count.)

Still, there’s one great advantage that Mumbaikars enjoy. That be it January or June, it’s always ice-cream season.

While most of the world views the passing months in terms of degrees Celsius, we can track it through favourite flavours. If it’s January it must be sitafal, if it’s February then strawberry, please. By March we’re digging into tubs of pale pink watermelon. And if mangoes are still too pricey in April, we can opt for chocolate or coffee. Or toss some crushed Oreos and chopped 5 Star bars into a basic vanilla mix. Maybe attempt a green tea and cayenne pepper confection. Because when it comes to ice cream, experimentation is integral to the story.

Ice-cream making was a big part of my childhood. My grandparents had one of those wooden, old-fashioned churns that had to be stuffed with ice and salt, and then churned and churned and churned till your arms fell off. My mother decided that this involved too much effort. On merciless summer days, she thickened milk by boiling it till she got fed up. Then she tossed in a few drops of vanilla essence, stirred in sugar, poured the mix into an ice tray and slid it into the freezer.

My brother and I loved the sweet, milky ice cubes that emerged hours later. What we loved even more was lemon float — the frothy concoction we got when we poured fizzy Duke’s lemonade over two white, sugary cubes. A few years later, an aunt from America gave us an “automatic ice-cream machine”. This required more attention than a fretful princess — and we all tiptoed around making sure that the ice was packed right and the machine could function unhampered. After which it yielded a watery mush to be glugged down rather than eaten.

Why did we bother? For the simple reason that we belonged to an age of synthetic strawberry cups and too-orange mango popsicles doled out by Kwality, Volga and Joy. Anything more adventurous, we had to make ourselves.

My family was tediously loyal to Kwality, and every Sunday we strolled down to Apollo Bunder and returned sticky with chocolate and raspberry syrup. Only one Colaba eatery stocked the elusive Volga. An eatery labelled “dangerous” by the adults of the family. (For once, they were right. Dipti Drink House was the lair of Charles Sobhraj. And I still rue my double-omission — a taste of Volga and a chance to spot the Terror of Tihar.)

Of course, there were a couple of small shops that produced what is today venerated as “artisanal ice cream”. Whenever my grandparents hosted a dinner party, they would dispatch a couple of us to Taj Ice Cream at Bohra Mohalla to sample the fruity, hand-churned treats and choose one for the big night.

Closer home, at Churchgate, there was K Rustom — famous for its glorious ice-cream sandwiches and idiosyncratic sales staff. It remains a family favourite, even in an age when you can pop out and buy a salted caramel confection flash-frozen with the help of liquid nitrogen. Or a scoop of artisanal lavender honey. A serving of pistachio black truffle at a chi-chi café. Or a plate of green chilli ice cream on the pavement of Marine Drive. Or just dial a tub of tender coconut or fig.

My three daughters enjoy the K Rustom Nescafé, almond crunch and lime-and-lemon. But what they adore even more is the unpredictable shopping experience. For example:

Us: Hi, can we please have three orange ice creams?

Middle-aged saleswoman in a flowery dress and smug expression: Not there.

Us: Coffee crunch?

Smug woman: Not there.

Us: What about apricot?

Smug woman: How many you want?

Us (meekly): Three

Smug woman (triumphantly): We have only one.

Another customer: Can we have two sitafal ice creams, please?

Smug woman (thumping a distracted salesman, who is swigging mango milkshake): You ask this boy.

Customer: Can we have two sitafal, please?

Mango-milkshake man hands out two ice creams. The customers realise they are vanilla. Trembling, they explain the mix-up. The ice creams are snatched back, wrapped in butter paper and plonked back into the freezer.

The customers wait mutely and finally ask: Our sitafal ice creams?

Milkshake man: Not there.

Sitafal-deprived customers: Then what is there?

Mango-milkshake man waves his hand at the three huge freezers filled with ice creams that are not orange, not apricot, not sitafal, not coffee crunch: All this.

A new, brave customer: We want three kesar pista, and three mango. Parcel.

Smug woman (irritated because the flavours are available): Where are you taking the parcel?

Customer: Chembur.

Smug woman: Ha, ha, ha. It will melt long before you get there. Don’t try it.

Us (sounding desperate): Do you have dark chocolate? Vanilla? Strawberry?

Smug woman humphs and packs our order with silent menace. She insists on exact change. Then, as an act of final revenge, hands our hard-won parcel to the Chembur crowd.

We return home convinced that there’s no place like K Rustom. Who wants a pretty café with pop music, funky posters and polite waiters, where ice creams are served with mere sprinkles and whipped cream. We’d rather have our toffee crunch and pineapple with lashings of eccentricity.

No fuss ice cream

That basic, nofuss ice cream that I learnt from my college friend Priya Joshi, and have used for three decades:

600g fresh cream

A 400g tin of condensed



1 Chill the cream. Whip it till thick, surrounding with ice cubes if necessary. Then gently fold in the condensed milk.

2 To this you can add any fruit or ingredient you like — depending on the season. Here are my favourite options: A stewed and diced pineapple, the juice of about eight oranges, or sauce made from about 100 strawberries, crushed Oreo biscuits and any leftover Kit Kats and chocolates.

3 Stir the basic mixture with the fruit or chocolate. Then pour into a flat, airtight box. The mixture should fill the box as much as possible. Shut and pop into the freezer.

Shabnam Minwalla is a journalist and the author of The Strange Haunting of Model High School and The Shy Supergirl

Published on November 10, 2017

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