11 Refreshing Facts about Gelato

iStock
iStock

Italy deserves major kudos for the culinary gifts—pizza, pasta, and pesto, to name a few—it has bestowed upon the world. But nothing instantly improves a hot summer day like savoring a cup (or cone) of gelato. Read on for 11 facts you might not know about the dense, refreshing dessert.

1. THE ITALIAN WORD CONGELATO MEANS FROZEN.

In Italian, the word congelato means frozen, and the word congelare means to freeze. Although gelato is the Italian version of ice cream, it’s not merely Dreyer’s with a European, artisanal flair. Like ice cream, gelato contains milk, sugar, and flavorings such as fruit or nuts, but it has less cream than ice cream and usually no egg yolks.

2. EARLY ITALIAN GELATO WAS CLOSER TO SORBET THAN ICE CREAM.

Although we don’t know the exact origins of gelato, ancient peoples in China and Egypt added fruit and salt to snow to make a primitive cold dessert. Ancient Roman emperors reportedly ate similar desserts, and this type of dessert is one of the myriad of culinary inventions that Catherine de' Medici is credited (rightly or wrongly) with bringing from Florence to Paris upon her 1533 marriage to the future King of France. But the lack of milk (Italians had used water instead) meant that early gelato more closely resembled sorbetto (a.k.a. sorbet).

3. A SICILIAN FISHERMAN OPENED THE FIRST GELATO CAFÉ IN PARIS.

In 1686, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a Sicilian fisherman and chef from Palermo, made the first gelato machine. He opened a café in Paris, called Café Procope, which sold gelato and coffee to Parisians and literary thinkers including Voltaire and Rousseau. Amazingly, you can still visit Café Procope, and the restaurant now serves dishes such as duck foie gras, beef tartare, and snails.

4. IT HAS LESS FAT BUT MORE FLAVOR THAN ICE CREAM.

Most people love that gelato miraculously contains less fat than regular ice cream but seems to taste more flavorful. As gelato expert Morgan Morano told NPR, gelato is softer, smoother, and denser than ice cream because less air is churned into it, and it has less butterfat. “Butterfat coats your palate, and if you have less of it you can taste the flavors more quickly,” Morano explained.

5. ITS WARMER TEMPERATURE ALSO GIVES IT STRONGER FLAVOR.

Gelato should be stored at a slightly warmer temperature than ice cream. Ice cream is typically served between 0 and 10 degrees Fahrenheit, while gelato is between 7 and 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmer temperature means that gelato is soft, silky, and more pleasing to your taste buds; your tongue is less numbed by the cold, so you can better appreciate the flavor.

6. AVOID GELATO THAT’S SERVED WITH A SCOOPER.

If you want authentic gelato, don’t buy it from a shop that uses ice cream scoops. Instead, gelato should be scooped with a spade or paddle. The flat surface is better equipped to gently scoop up your flavor of choice. “Not only can you work gelato with the spade to soften it up, but there's a whole artistry,” Morano said.

7. KNOW THE LINGO WHEN ORDERING IN ITALY.

Whether you’re ordering gelato in Italy (or at an authentic gelateria elsewhere), you should know gelato-related terminology. If you’re in need of a serious dose of caffeine, order affogato. You’ll get a scoop of gelato doused in espresso. If you want to make your gelato extra decadent, opt for gelato con panna to get gelato topped with whipped cream. And for an Italian ice cream sandwich, order brioche con gelato.

8. THE GELATO WORLD CUP IS A THING.

Every other year, international teams compete at the Gelato World Cup (called Coppa del Mondo della Gelateria in Italian). Teams from countries including Japan, Morocco, the United States, Spain, and Poland traveled to Italy to compete in the most recent competition, in January 2016. After the teams made their best gelato dishes, sundaes, and ice sculptures, the Italian team won first place. Obviously.

9. POPULAR FLAVORS IN GELATERIAS INCLUDE BACIO, STRACCIATELLA, AND LIMONE…

In Italy, gelatai (sellers of gelato) go way beyond the typical chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Gelaterias offer a ton of fruit-based flavors, as well as richer dessert ones. Popular gelato flavors include bacio (chocolate hazelnut), stracciatella (vanilla with streaks of chocolate chip), limone (lemon), pistacchio (pistachio), fico (fig), and cocco (coconut).

10. …AND VIAGRA GELATO IS A REAL FLAVOR.

Although there are plenty of weird gelato flavors in Italy, Viagra might be the weirdest. Rather than actually containing the prescription drug, Viagra gelato is made with African aphrodisiac herbs. The color is bright blue, and it reportedly tastes like either bubblegum or black licorice (anise). However, a celebrity client once requested that his prescription Viagra be included in a private batch—the gelataio estimated it cost $33 a scoop.

11. GELATO DOES BIG BUSINESS.

Between 2009 and 2014, gelato sales increased dramatically from $11 million to $214 million. More and more Americans are buying gelato, and traditional ice cream companies have jumped on the gelato train. Häagen-Dazs now offers dark chocolate chip, sea salt caramel, black cherry amaretto, and tiramisu gelato, while Breyers’ Gelato Indulgences line has salted caramel truffle, peanut butter chocolate, chocolate hazelnut, and chocolate fudge truffle. As of 2014, the gelato company Talenti is the number three seller of premium ice cream in the U.S., behind Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs.

All images via iStock.

Why Are There 10 Hot Dogs to a Pack But Only 8 Buns?

tacar/iStock via Getty Images
tacar/iStock via Getty Images

Watching competitive eating champion Joey Chestnut cram dozens of hot dogs down his throat would make anyone crave a grilled log of processed meat this summer. But shopping for hot dogs can be a confusing experience. The dogs are typically sold in packs of 10, but the buns are sold in packs of eight. What's behind this strange dog and bun inequality?

According to the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council—yes, there is a National Hot Dog and Sausage Council—there’s a good reason for the discrepancy. For starters, distributors of hot dogs are almost always different from manufacturers of baked goods like rolls. The hot dogs are sold in packs of 10 because producers of meat (or meat-like) products selected that quantity when hot dogs started to sell at retail grocery stores in the 1940s. Oscar Mayer, which led the charge into direct-to-consumer hot dog packaging, sold hot dogs by the pound in accordance with how meat is typically priced. Having 10 dogs that weighed 1.6 ounces each seemed like the ideal distribution of weight.

Bakeries, meanwhile, have standards of their own. Buns and sandwich rolls are usually sold eight to a pack because the baking trays for the elongated buns are typically sized to fit that number. Two sets of four buns come off the tray, which is the reason why buns are often still attached to one another when you open a bag.

These standards were created independently of one another: Bakeries weren’t too preoccupied with hot dogs when they were settling on a four-roll tray standard, and hot dog manufacturers weren’t thinking about how difficult it would be for bakeries to break from their conveyor system to offer 10 buns to a pack.

It can be frustrating if you buy just one or two packages of each, but if you’re hosting a big enough party, the uneven number doesn’t matter. You just need to buy five packages of buns and four packages of hot dogs to have 40 matching pairs. No complicated calculations required.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Two Eco-Minded Kids in England Are Petitioning McDonald’s and Burger King to Nix Plastic Toys

romrodinka/iStock via Getty Images
romrodinka/iStock via Getty Images

Some kids are not content to wait around while the grown-ups sort out the future of our planet. Two of them, 9-year-old Ella and 7-year-old Caitlin, have launched a petition on Change.org requesting that McDonald’s and Burger King stop giving out plastic toys with their kid’s meals, Thrillist reports.

“Children only play with the plastic toys they give us for a few minutes before they get thrown away and harm animals and pollute the sea,” the British girls wrote on Change.org. “We want anything they give us to be sustainable so we can protect the planet for us and for future generations.” The petition has almost 400,000 signatures so far, and their current goal is to reach 500,000.

McDonald's Happy Meal
McDonald's

Last October, UK environment minister Thérèse Coffey also implored McDonald’s to stop giving out plastic toys, suggesting instead that they develop smartphone-friendly games to accompany the meals. At the time, a UK McDonald’s spokesman acknowledged the importance of reducing plastic waste and cited their promise to switch to paper straws, but countered the assumption that the plastic toys were only used for a few minutes, telling The Telegraph that they “provide many more fun-filled hours at home, too.”

The fast food giant did study the environmental effects of their toys last year and found that they are hard to recycle, since they’re manufactured from various types of plastic. As a result, McDonald’s is researching more Earth-friendly ways to make their toys. A Burger King representative told The Wall Street Journal that it, too, is exploring “alternative toy solutions.”

But according to Ella and Caitlin, “It’s not enough to make recyclable plastic toys—big, rich companies shouldn’t be making toys out of plastic at all.” The young activists themselves recycle as much as they can, and even hung a poster in their window about saving the planet.

You can sign their petition here, and learn how to reduce your own environmental impact.

[h/t Thrillist]

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