Monday, November 14, 2016
The gelato study overview
There is a lot of gelato in Rome, an avalanche of gelato, a glacier of gelato, a secret ice city of gelato, all to serve the 4 billion 2 hundred thousand gelato eating tourists cramming through the center of Rome every day. This allows for all manner of gelaterias; ones with gelato made with powder mixes and piled into fluffy clouds that appear to go untouched all day long, storied old places thronged with a crush of visitors all afternoon and deep into the evening, all taking endless pictures of themselves and their cones, impeccable shops with reverent reviews and yet mysteriously shut down, one time toasts of the town who still make exquisite gelato but no longer for crowds of any kind, newly minted champions that require steady 20 minute waits, and off the beaten path wonders that require a lengthy walk but no wait at all.
That's plenty of gelato, much of it very good. Does that mean a person can go uninformed to Rome and have excellent gelato? If one has good instincts ("that blue gelato looks suspicious, let's try somewhere else") then one's chances are about fifty-fifty. But if one is in Rome for two or three days it becomes quite likely, and five or six days of gelato eating in Rome will make it certain. And there is much to be said for the experience of stumbling into something extraordinary and having the lightning strike in that exciting way. On the other hand all time spent in Rome is precious, and one doesn't have to take quite so many chances, because the lightning is going to be striking there no matter what, every day. So one might as well bring the names of a dozen likely gelaterias if one is going for a gelato eating visit.
But all of that is just great gelato, marvelous gelato, and it's easy enough to find. What about gelato of the gods, the holy grail of gelato? What about perfect gelato? Is that in Rome?
Yes, but magic is always delicate and never absolute. Proper ingredients, craftsmanship, and creativity are essential to this gelato. But then, a person, as the gelato eater, also has to choose the right flavor at the right time in the right mood and in the right place for it to all come together to create that epiphanetic experience. Ingredients, skill, frame of mind, and luck all must come together.
That gelato ecstasy may not appear quite as one expects even when it does. With exacting standards, giving no benefit of the doubt, with no hedging in my feelings and refusing to confuse the mere extraordinary for the ecstatic, I can only say I had two total irrefutable gelato of the gods experiences in Rome. One involved lavender gelato, one involved mere whipped cream, which is odd, but I wouldn't even consider not counting it. There were probably three or four other gelaterias where it would have been possible for me to see the frozen light of the gods, but for whatever subtle reasons the pure magic didn't quite pan out.
So there were two places that cracked heaven. Three or four that knocked on heaven's door. And somewhere between five and ten that actually got within yelling distance of heaven. But then, all of Central Rome may be within yelling distance of heaven.
Tomorrow we'll name the names. Tomorrow: