It is often said that what you’ve never had you never miss.
Back in the early 1970s nobody in the UK, beyond the well-travelled few, had had anything remotely resembling what would today be called ice cream. Sure, we’d had some puffy yellowy-white stuff in a block served to us out of a wrapper, in a square-shaped cone that was specially designed for the purpose of accommodating it. Some of us preferred the oyster, a clam-shaped wafer which largely enclosed its contents until you bit into it, whereupon the nondescript matter contained therein would squirt rudely from the cracks and, if you were lucky, would hit your face rather than the shirt that your mother had painstakingly scrubbed and ironed, and which you where expected to wear for the rest of the week.
But real ice cream, like the reputed guests of Roswell, was a thing most of us had heard of but by no means everyone was convinced actually existed.
Rhubarb and custard
So when the American ice cream parlor chain Dayville’s 32 Flavors first set-up shop on a busy high street corner in leafy Richmond in 1976, we were excited but, to begin with, somewhat sceptical. Try as we did to think of which flavours such an unlikely number might include, we gave up after about eight. After all, everyone knew ice cream came in vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and sometimes (unlikely though it may seem today) banana – and nothing else. At a stretch, we could maybe envision raspberry or possibly even coffee. But toffee caramel crunch, bubblegum or rhubarb and custard were as unlikely a story as the unscheduled arrival of a posse of little green men in the New Mexico desert.
Nevertheless, Dayville’s became rather a big hit in South West London once we’d gotten over the initial shock. A little pricey perhaps, but only to be expected given the uniqueness of the experience that it had unleashed upon the curious adolescents who had hitherto been raised on 99s, Mivvis and Wall’s mousses in a box.
We have the cream, we have the flavours
Sadly the company only made it to 1990, when it ceased to trade. Inevitably there were other vendors who came in on the act, including many native to the UK. After all – as stockbroker Gabriel Gutman, who brought the concept across to these shores, pointed out at the time – we had the cream and we had the flavours, it was just that no-one had ever thought to put them together.
Today we enjoy some truly delicious native fare from the likes of Kelly’s, New Forest and Morelli’s, but it would be churlish not to acknowledge the kick-start the industry so belatedly received from our cousins across the pond.