Pros: gorgeous detail; beautiful history; lush information; good recipes
Cons: I’ve had better ice cream
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Also published on Epinions.com
Review copy courtesy of Red Rock Press
Reading Michael Turback’s “More than a Month of Sundaes” is like eating an ice cream sundae: each taste is smooth, luxurious, melting on the tongue to yield a panoply of sweet flavors. Normally I’m not much of a history buff, and much of this book is filled with historical details and stories regarding the background of ice cream and the phenomenon of the ice cream sundae. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, however. The tales are fascinating and filled with personality and color. The details (such as how much George Washington spent on ice cream in one summer!) can be wild and eye-opening, giving us a whole different window into the past as an alternative to dry history books.
I particularly enjoyed learning about how the various well-known ice cream companies got their start. At this point most of them feel like large, faceless companies, so it was fascinating to picture these men decades ago making ice creams and selling them out of their kitchens. I also enjoyed learning where various trends (such as the use of mix-ins) got their start, and how many of the famous sundae-shops around the country contributed to the fame of the ice cream sundae. (In one case I even got to say, “hey, I’ve been there before!”)
The author quotes many famous people and relates all sorts of fascinating stories regarding their ice cream foibles. He explains terminology (such as “soda jerk”), details trends and procedures, and relates many soda fountains’ ideas of the perfect sundae.
But lest you think this is entirely a history of the ice cream sundae and all things related to it, it definitely includes recipes. It provides a few basic ice cream recipes, a handful of toppings, and many sundae-building instructions from establishments near and far.
Unfortunately, this part of the book, while good, doesn’t fare quite as well as the story-telling (not a division I expected to find myself making!). The toppings are wonderful. The sundae instructions are definitely good, although there’s a lot of near-duplication, I think–there tends to be some limit on how many different things you can do with a few ice cream flavors and toppings, unsurprisingly. The weak point, oddly, turned out to be the ice creams.
The ice creams in The Ultimate Ice Cream Book were much better. The ones in this book, while good, were of inconsistent quality. The quick chocolate ice cream didn’t taste particularly chocolatey and froze so hard in the freezer that it’s basically impossible to serve, for example. I definitely enjoyed the vanilla bean and the strawberry ice creams, but they just aren’t as good as I’m accustomed to from that other book. However, they did show me one thing–now I understand why I was never all that fond of sundaes from most ice cream shops. The ice creams and toppings in this book aren’t too-sweet (most from sundae places these days are practically just flavored sugar), so the combination of toppings plus ice cream doesn’t make you want to curl up and die of sugar shock. So from now on, when I’m making ice cream specifically to go into sundaes, I’ll cut down on the sugar.
All in all I highly recommend this book to any afficionado of ice cream or sundaes. It presents a lush history in vivid detail as well as many worthwhile suggestions to get you started exploring sundaes in your own home. And if that isn’t enough, it directs you to many of America’s top sundae places, so you can go experience them for yourself! If you like to make your own ice creams, however, I do recommend picking up Bruce Weinstein’s The Ultimate Ice Cream Book as well.