The inside scoop: An exhibition on the past, present and future of ice cream

Ice cream feasting

Ice cream feasting - Credit: Nathan Pask

SCOOP: The Wonderful World of Ice Cream runs from 3 July - 30 September at Gasholders London in Kings Cross.

“Forget art. Put your trust in ice cream,” as the American novelist Charles Baxter once said. And that’s exactly what the British Museum of Food (BMOF) want visitors to do this summer with the launch of a multi-sensory exhibition devoted entirely to the past, present and future of Britain’s relationship with the beloved frozen dessert.

The exhibition includes curated galleries, talks, demonstrations and workshops that will bring the wonderful history of ice cream to life, including real icebergs, ice cream weather and glow-in-the-dark ice cream. Visitors get two tastings of historic flavours during the exhibition (one will be an ice cream they’ve made themselves).

“Ice cream puts a smile on everyone’s face,” said Sam Bompas, co-founder of BMOF. “As soon as we started doing this, all kinds of ice cream enthusiasts came out of the woodwork. You can spend your life doing anything, building an ice cream exhibition is wonderful.”

SCOOP is the brainchild of Bompas & Parr, which in 11 years has grown from an artisan jelly company to become the British Museum of Food with plans in the works for further exhibitions this year.


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The launch coincides with the 300th anniversary of Mary Eales’ Receipts (1718), the first cookery book to give a recipe for ice cream. Evidence of ice cream in Britain dates back to as early as 17th century, the first recorded mention is on the menu of a lavish ceremonial feast given by King Charles II in 1671. Old recipes reveal some unusual flavours of 17th and 18th centuries; such as plum and tea, coffee, rye bread and brandy, and daffodil.

The design of the museum is inspired by the colourful optimism of the Festival of Britain, colliding with a chromed-deco ice cream parlour from the future, realised in a riot of muted pastels. Monolithic ice cream furniture for Conehenge, the museum cafe, is supplied by Petite Friture.

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The event also boasts an enormous selection of ice cream paraphernalia, including vintage equipment, advertising and music collected by Robin and Caroline Weir, authors of Ice Creams Sorbets and Gelati The Definitive Guide. On the verge of getting rid of some of their huge collection, which Bompas describes as “utterly extraordinary”, the pair behind BMOF assured them to hold onto it for a little longer so it could be part of the exhibition.

Part of the event focuses on the life of Agnes B. Marshall, known in Victorian times as the Queen of Ices. Far ahead of her time, Marshall wrote several successful cook books, patented an ice cream machine and even suggested using liquid nitrogen to make ice cream as early as the late 1800s. Guests can step back in time to try some of Agnes’s favourite recipes.

“We’ve chosen ice cream as the focus of our launch summertime exhibition as it plays such an affectionate role in the nation’s psyche and is tremendously important in our culinary heritage, yet for many people its roots in history and the key players who have helped drive its popularity remain a mystery,” said Harry Parr, co-founder of BMOF.

Tickets can be bought in advance for £12 per person at bmof.org

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