The long and colourful history of ice-cream in Fife
Ice-cream makers in Scotland
Given that it’s not the warmest country in the world, Scotland has a surprising number of excellent ice-cream producers. This trend was established as early as the 1880s, when Italians began traveling to Scotland for work to escape poverty at home. Originally the shops were conceived as basic convenience stores or chip shops, but with an ingrained knowledge of the excellent ice-cream back home, migrant workers introduced mouth-watering ‘gelato’ to the Scots.
A relationship with the Scottish community is crucial to the identity of many ice-cream parlours in Fife. The Fusaro family is a prime example – Vince, who oversees the ice-cream production at Luvians, explains how ‘independent-thinking Italians wanted to spread out when they arrived to make their mark.’ Selling ice-cream was very much a way of giving back something to the locals.
Inevitably, it must have been difficult to adjust to a new environment. Marta, Vince’s daughter explains that although proud of their heritage, her grandparents had a strong sense of awareness of being in someone else’s country. This resulted in an eagerness to blend in, learn English quickly and then to provide for the town.
Until late into the twentieth century, every town in Fife boasted an independent ice-cream maker. Making artisan ice-cream involves a lot of hard work, and almost inevitably the number of parlours has diminished.
For Bennett Jannetta, who had a shop in St Andrews, dual national identity resulted in his son, Charlie, being interned during the Second World War. However a will to keep going rubbed off on succeeding generations, resulting in such fond regard for Fife ice-cream institutions. Jannettas is now in its fifth generation, though current owners Nicola and Owen are, foremost, products of their Scottish background.
Recently, a new strand of ice-cream makers has emerged from dairy farmers who have seen it as a means to diversify. Ryan and Lynne at Nelson’s of Culross used this opportunity creatively, and have made an effort to distinguish their ice-cream from those of the long-established shops with unusual and more British flavours (ginger crunch and nip o’whisky among them). There is no real issue of competition among such local producers; the main worry over the years has been that people won’t travel for quality when they can get so much from supermarkets. However, despite the popularity of American-style chunky, bitty flavours, it is telling that for independent Fife producers, the most popular styles are still the classics, indicating that sticking with tradition may be the way forward.