I love ice cream, irrespective of what flavour it is. I love the silky smooth texture of it, the sweet coolness I feel as the taste of it explodes in my mouth. I don’t really need a reason to eat ice cream; I can do it at any time, any day. I can’t, therefore, imagine a world without ice cream in it. It would be way too dull for me. However, if not for Carlo Demirco, a world without ice cream might just have been the case. Ice creams might just have been meant for royalty, and the art of making them might just have died away with the kings and queens. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, Anthony Capella tells readers of his book The Empress Of Ice Cream.
The Empress Of Ice Cream is a historical fiction novel, but so craftily written that you cannot really tell where fact ends and fiction begins. It begins in the 1600s, when the young Carlo is sold by his parents as a slave to an ice maker in the palace of the Medicis in Italy, called Ahmed. Ahmed is someone who does not believe in sharing his knowledge about ice, and does not encourage the asking of questions, either. That does not prevent Carlo from experimenting with different flavours for making ices – flavoured ices were what were made in those times; they didn’t have the smooth texture of the ice cream of today. Soon, Carlo learns more than his master, Ahmed, who only knows what is written in the books that have been passed on in his family across generations.
One fine day, Carlo gets a chance to escape to the court of Louis XIV in France, where he manages to charm the king with his unique flavours of ices. Working without fear of Ahmed, Carlo becomes a master of ices. The court of Louis XIV is where Carlo meets Louise de Keroualle, a poor lady-in-waiting, and falls in love with her. The Empress Of Ice Cream is as much the story of Louise as it is Carlo’s and that of the evolution of ice cream.
Louis and his ministers decide that Louise should be mistress to King Charles II of England, and she is duly sent off to his court. Carlo is made to accompany her, as confectioner to Charles II. The author has beautifully brought out the conflicts in the court of Charles II, and how Louise and Carlo get embedded deeper and deeper into the many political plots that are a constant feature there.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, and couldn’t put it down. The twists and turns are captivating, and keep one shocked till the end of the book. I wouldn’t say I understood all the history that the book covers, but it wasn’t difficult to understand the plot. The writing style is captivating and vivid, and I could picture all the scenes that the author has written about in my head, easily, right from the dresses that they wore to the way they looked. And that, I believe, is the mark of a wonderful author.
The book awed me – it told me so much about life back then, in Italy and England, under the patronage of royalty. I hadn’t known the evolution of ice cream had been such a lengthy process, involving so many stages, and that it has undergone a massive change from the way it was originally prepared. Of course, the book made me crave for ice cream, too.
If you get a chance, do not miss this lovely book. Anthony Capella is great at historical fiction and food, and you will not regret reading it, for sure.
A highly recommended read.