Saturday, January 10, 2009

Peters ice cream - the healthfood of a nation

Refrigerators in the 1950s had a small freezing compartment only large enough to hold an ice-block tray or two. Ice cream was home made using Carnation Milk - hard blocks of cream coloured ice served on special occasions in small portions with hot apple pie or bread and butter custard or lemon pudding. When a new refrigerator was purchased with a larger freezer compartment Mother sometimes purchased a Peters Ice Cream Family Brick - a rectangle of vanilla ice cream, originally wrapped in paper but later packaged in a cardboard box with a zipper opening. Slices of soft white ice cream became a favourite dessert. Sometimes Neapolitan Family Bricks - layers of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream in the one box - would be purchased, especially if there was a birthday. Chocolate was always my favourite.

Ice cream in the 1950s and the early 1960s was a special treat - not something you had every day. Once a week we were allowed to go to the local Milk Bar and buy and icy pole. Milk Bars throughout Victoria were recognisable by the large Peters Ice Cream Cone attached to the roof. Sometimes we were allowed to have an ice cream in a cone. A very special treat was to be allowed to have a Choc Wedge - vanilla ice cream coated with chocolate on a stick. Other special ice creams were Two - in Ones - chocolate coated vanilla ice cream on two sticks designed so that the ice cream could be split and shared and Have - a Hearts - chocolate coated, heart shaped, creamy vanilla ice cream on a stick. For special treats for dessert we occasionally were allowed to have an Eskimo Pie - a small rectangle of chocolate coated ice cream wrapped in foil ( no stick) - or a Kreme B Tween - a slice of vanilla ice cream which you then inserted between two wafer biscuits. When we went to the Pictures or to a Pantomime there was always a Dixie at interval - a small cup of vanilla ice cream eaten using a small wooden stick. In the 1960s the big innovation in ice cream was the Drumstick.

Of a nation, written by Michael Harden, celebrates 100 years of Peters Ice Cream in Australia from 1907 to 2007. Two men in particular were responsible for the success of the company - Fred Peters and Emil Christensen. Fred Peters, an American, began making ice cream in a back yard shed in Manly. He made the ice cream in the morning and delivered it in a horse drawn vehicle in the afternoon. The book describes how from this humble beginning grew a major Australian company employing thousands of people. The book explores the development of the company, the challenges of making ice cream with primitive refrigeration available, transporting the ice cream, developing new products, publicity and promotion of the product, the family friendly conditions provided for the workers and the community involvement of the firm. In many ways there are parallels between the story of Peters Ice Cream and the story of MacRobertsons' Chocolates as told in the book by Jill Robertson, The Chocolate King.

Of a nation, is well illustrated with photographs and includes anecdotes from people long associated with the company. For those who grew up with Peters Ice Cream this book will revive many memories.

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