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Ice cream cones from the London Ice Cream Co. that are still “real” ice cream with all dairy products and no oil products, at their retail location in London, Ontario, June 21, 2011. (Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press)

Garlic, borscht, champagne ice, and ‘sunflower power’ were among the choices

Recent reporting on ice cream by the CBC has included stories about an Ottawa shop that mixed up a sweet tribute to the flag of Nunavut, where to find Calgary’s “unique flavours” and “crazy cones”, and a dairy in Newfoundland and Labrador that makes blueberry, bakeapple and partridgeberry flavours.

A survey of the CBC-TV catalog shows that ice cream has been a subject on CBC since at least 1956, when the program John Fisher Reports visited an ice cream maker in Almonte, Ont.

Chef Mme. Jehane Benoït showed viewers how to make their own ice cream on CBC’s Open House in 1961.

But ice cream reporting seems to have ramped up in the 1980s, from a 1980 report about a parent who wanted to be able to buy a smaller cone for an infant to teenagers who peddled ice cream treats in 1985 Saskatoon. And there were a lot of options in the frozen-treat aisle in the ’80s, as CBC’s Midday told viewers.

First, the cone

What about the cone?

In July 1983, a report by John Lees at CFPL in London, Ont. was picked up for This Week in Ontario, a compilation of reports from CBC stations across the province.

Host Joe Cote set up Lees’s report — which focused on the cone, rather than the ice cream inside it — by placing the genesis of the cone as a receptacle for ice cream in 1904. But according to the food website Serious Eats, its origins are murkier.

Lees looked deeper into the cone, a feat of “conical engineering,” by visiting a London manufacturer called McCormick’s. It was a “major cone supplier” and one of just two companies in Canada that made cones for ice cream.

“It turns out 80- to 100,000 of them a day, almost 11 months a year,” he said.

After getting a grip on the cone situation, Lees visited an ice cream parlour to learn more about what went inside.

Pink bubblegum flavour was especially popular with kids. Lees asked a woman behind the counter about the “least favourite” flavour of ice cream at the shop.

“I would have to say sunflower power,” she said. “It sounds healthy, and maybe that’s why it’s not popular.”

‘Oddball flavours’

‘Old-fashioned taste with mass marketing’

In 1989, the CBC business program Venture took a hard look at what was novel in the Canadian ice cream scene.

The American brand Haagen-Dazs was a “successful pioneer” in the “new wave” of independent ice cream companies.

“They went back to some of the original ice cream that was made, which tended to be very heavy and dense and high in fat content,” said Doug Goff, a food-sciences professor at the University of Guelph.

The approach was different with Metropolitan Ice Cream, a Toronto company then making frozen confections for the “upscale market” with flavours like champagne ice.

“They’ve custom-made some really oddball flavours,” said narrator Robert Scully.

“We’ve done a garlic ice cream for a garlic festival,” said Metropolitan’s Lanny Salsburg, a former pastry chef, inside his company’s manufacturing plant. “I did a borscht ice cream… we regularly do things like cashew brittle, ginger candied orange, a guava ice.”

‘Small batches, by hand’

The ice cream scene in 1993. Reporter Jeannie Lee finds out what people love about ice cream and other frozen treats.

In 1993, the CBC’s Jeannie Lee praised ice cream as a “simple day-to-day pleasure” that was “not hard to find.”

“Sweet, cool, refreshing, delicious,” said a woman eating a chocolate-vanilla soft serve frozen yogurt.

“When it’s really hot there’s a spot in the back of my throat that I really have to cool off,” said another woman, who was eating what appeared to be chocolate hard ice cream.

Lee said Ontarians swallowed two million litres of ice cream a week.

“Ice cream is booming in Canada this year. With the hot weather, people are going for it like never before,” said Keith Gillespie, inside the warehouse freezer at at Ault Foods, which Lee described as “a giant in the industry.”

On the other end of the ice cream spectrum was Gelato Fresco, a company that Hart Melvin started in the mid-1980s, as the country was seeing what Lee called “a growing health consciousness.”

“[Gelato Fresco] makes most of its treats in small batches, by hand,” said Lee, as a worker was seen packaging a bright-pink frozen mixture into a large tub.

Melvin said the company’s low-fat offerings made it easier for everyone to enjoy a sweet summer treat.

“We’re trying to make it so that the people that have a dietary challenge have just as much fun with their frozen dessert.”

Reporter Jeannie Lee visited Toronto’s Gelato Fresco, where the frozen dessert was made in small batches by hand. (CBLT Newshour/CBC Archives)

Source: Sweet samples from the summer ice cream scene on CBC | CBC Archives