“There is no sincerer love than the love of food”
– George Bernard Shaw
When we lived in Firenze’s Le Cure neighborhood, we were spoiled rotten for hand-made gelato, from Cavini to Badiani and a few in-between. Taking a post-dinner passeggiata (stroll), we would lazily amble about in the evening sun and eventually turn a corner and then find… Bliss.
Moving back to Canada’s West Coast was bittersweet in general and definitely sour when it came to locally-made ice cream. I had given up even after I had read an article last year about some non-Italian Vancouverite who had won an international prize for gelato. In Florence. In Italy. Hmm.
Today I went to Bella Gelateria run by James Coleridge in downtown Vancouver. Folks had mentioned this Gelateria to me but I had dismissed them – What would Vancouverites know about authentic gelato?
When we lived in Italy, we systematically tried every single artisanal Gelateria (ice cream parlour) in Florence. My husband and I made lists compiled from blogs and locals and tried at least one new Gelateria a week. This resulted in some funny foodie episodes. Once we actually fought with owners of a gelateria in Scarperia who didn’t want to sell us a tub of gelato. Well, they were happy to sell it to us, until they found out that we were planning to bring it back home to Florence. Although it was packed in a Styrofoam container, they were genuinely worried that their gelato would lose its delicate flavours in the half hour ride back home. That episode is worthy of a short story: “The Gelato Nazis of Scarperia.”
I became such a gelato snob/conoisseur, that for a real treat I would make excuses to take the train to Rome to sh-lurp away at San Crispino (not then found in the travel guides). San Crispino behind the Fontana Di Trevi is usually passed over by the unsuspecting traveler. They are looking for colorful ubiquitous mounds of frozen delight, gloriously decorated with delectable delicacies. San Crispino doesn’t display their gelato but covers it up. So much that is worth waiting for is initially hidden.
The first thing that struck me at the Bella Gelateria was that like Rome’s San Crispino, the gelato was covered, not displayed. This minimizes air exposure and flavour-mixing. I had to admit that I was impressed. Maybe James Coleridge really knew something about gelato.
He does. He is worthy of his title and wins in 2 categories of the International Gelato competition last year. He makes speechlessly-divine gelato. World Class. I asked him this afternoon about it.
James said it’s like David and Goliath. An independent against the industrial machine. I’ve heard my father use the same analogy about making organic breakfast cereal. We inhabit a world where flavour is generally sacrificed for cost. It takes a true artist to attain perfection in the flavour department. Flavour perfection is almost invariably tied to pure ingredients. In this weird world where quantity too often trumps quality, James has distilled pure gelato magic.
His mandate is to bring genuine flavours back into our culinary repertoire. Like fast fashion I’ve written about, fast food is even worse. On a meta level, who cares about how you dress if inside you are full of artificial flavours, artificial colours, GMOs and toxic residues? James is attempting to reconnect us with truth. The maestro uses Avalon milk for goodness sake.
I needed to post about James’s gelato for a few reasons. My noble goal is to highlight people and systems who are getting it right. By worshipping the good and great, by drawing energy to that, we can’t help but inspire change. James is my hero of the day. First, he makes incomparable gelato. Second, he doesn’t compromise quality. He exemplifies what we all must strive to: independence, pride in our work, love of what we make and what we give to others.
I heard Vandana Shiva say that our greatness should be judged by what we create. I agree.
James Colergidge, alchemist, is transforming gems of nature and augmenting them for our tastebuds. He is creating beauty one cone at a time.
I left James with a “Ciao”, feeling I had met a great man today.