Ice Cream, You Scream: the Tutti Frutti storyDecember 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?
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’.
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.
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.
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).
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