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Ice Cream, You Scream: the Tutti Frutti story

December 16, 2013

Little Richard, Pat Boone and Elvis sang about it in the mid 1950s, but where is it now?

When quizzed about ‘tutti frutti’ my friends mostly knew it as a flavour for lollies or icy confections, but confessed to not having heard of it for decades.

In Italian the words mean ‘all fruit’ (in a word-for-word translation) but are not used in the Italian language at all. In fact, the correct way of saying it would be ‘tutti i frutti’ or even better: ‘tutta la frutta’.

The invention of tutti frutti ice cream, with its small pieces of glace fruits and nuts, is attributed to Kentucky ice cream factory owner Roy Motherhead who named it after his daughter ‘Toodie’ in the late 1940s-early 1950s. However, I discovered an image of a bold neon Tutti Frutti Ice Cream sign on a building in Soerabaja (Surabaya, Indonesia) dated 1929-32. Am I questioning the Wikipedia editors here?    Tutti Frutti sign in Surabaya

Entertainment-wise, the expression appears in the 1943 Busby Berkeley film The Gang’s All Here when Carmen Miranda wobbles her bananas in the musical number ‘The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat’.  

CarmenMiranda sings 'Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat'  

It’s given the mangled Italian-English treatment in the Marx Brothers’ A Day at the Races filmed in 1937. In one of the film’s best scenes, Chico loudly invites punters at the racetrack to “getta your tootsie frootsie ice cream” while really trying to sell Groucho (Dr. Hackenbush) horse betting instruction manuals hidden in the ice cream cart.

Chico and Groucho Marx Brothers

So, what happened to tutti frutti? Apparently Leopold’s Ice Cream in Savannah, Georgia (established in 1919) still sells it. And it appears to be one of the 50 flavours for a designer jelly bean brand. What a sad end to something that inspired so many magical moments.  Tutti Frutti Jelly Belly

But all’s not lost. The cassata siciliana, on which the tutti frutti flavour is surely based, endures. Usually a glace fruit, nut and ricotta mixture covered with cake and suffocated with marzipan, it’s a rich, sweet concoction. I prefer a simpler cassata-type gelato and recall having it for dessert at the dozens of Sydney Italian weddings I attended in the 1970s-1980s. This cassata recipe (from The Illustrated Kitchen Bible) reminds me of these (especially the cherry-flavoured top layer), but I’d substitute the commercial glace fruit with my own candied peel and Maraschino cherries (included in previous posts).  CassataGelato

Further viewing:

Carmen Miranda – The Gang’s All Here (The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gloYcISsyHA

Marx Brothers – A Day at the Races (Tootsie Frootsie ice cream racetrack scene) : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LBIsDBC848

 

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7 comments

  1. Fruit Tingles, those little powdery sweets you would buy in rolls were yellow, green, orange or pink – you never knew which colour was next – and if you were lucky enough you would find a multi coloured one which I believe was tutti frutti


    • Of course, clever you! I’d forgotten all about Fruit Tingles. Do they still make them? I do remember though that no matter what flavour/colour you ate, they all tasted of bicarb soda.


      • Not sure if they still make them – they might be gone together with the corner milk bar. Oh yes they were like Wizz Fizz in pill form!


  2. Ooh, I remember Tutti Frutti ice-cream in the 70s – I’m going to ask my mum where she got it from. Haven’t thought about it for years – yum yum xx


    • Hi Jenny. It’s interesting isn’t it. This topic is throwing up all sorts of wonderful stuff. Love your work, by the way. And thanks for your comments.


  3. I didn’t know tutti frutti was out of vogue. I for one can never get enough of colourful candied peel.


    • Maybe, like some food fashions, it will make a comeback. Let’s hope so!



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