Has Israeli ice cream lost its American influence?

These days American-style banana splits and ice cream sundaes are impossible to find, and the traditional sauces to DIY one yourself are no longer at local supermarkets.

 SOMEONE PLEASE get Greer a banana split, pronto! (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
SOMEONE PLEASE get Greer a banana split, pronto!
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Has the American influence faded from Israel’s coffee shops and ice cream parlors?

The review of a variety of ice creams in last week’s In Jerusalem brought to mind the days when American-style banana splits and ice cream sundaes were available in most Jerusalem coffee shops and soda fountains.

These days, they are impossible to find, and if one wants to DIY on banana splits, the traditional raspberry or strawberry sauces, also known as cordials, are no longer available at local supermarkets.

What happened to the banana split? Why has Israel lost its American ice cream?

For those who’ve never seen or tasted one, a banana split consists of a banana split in half lengthwise, with three scoops of ice cream between the two halves. The ice cream is usually in three flavors – vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry, with the center scoop topped by a swirl of whipped cream. 

Add to this a mix of fresh or canned fruits, preferably with the inclusion of pineapple and strawberries, but other fruits can also be added, as well as chopped nuts and chocolate sprinkles, and a cherry or strawberry placed on the peak of the whipped cream. The concoction is topped by a thin line of strawberry sauce running around the ice cream scoops.

 NO COMPARISON to Carvel.  (credit: Wikimedia Commons)
NO COMPARISON to Carvel. (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Don’t bother to count the calories. It will spoil your enjoyment if you do.

A sundae used to follow a similar formula with the difference that it was vertical rather than horizontal. Served in a stemmed dessert dish, it would have the ice cream scoops on top of each other, sandwiched by dollops of whipped cream. The bananas, instead of being split, were sliced into rounds and added to other fruits in the dish. Sometimes instead of strawberry or raspberry, chocolate sauce was used, and – to add to the flavor when served in a hotel – a few drops of alcohol.

Many ice cream parlors in Jerusalem have displays of mixed fruits but they are not for banana splits or sundaes. They’re used in slushies or smoothies.

It’s amazing how many coffee shops do not have ice cream of any kind on the menu. Forget about ordering a milkshake or iced coffee poured over vanilla, coffee, or chocolate ice cream. Most of the places that do offer milkshakes don’t serve them in the old-fashioned tall, wide glasses. They serve them in smaller, narrower glasses, at much higher prices.

Also, seldom if ever seen in Israel is baked Alaska, which is made by unrolling a Swiss roll, spreading it with layers of ice cream, adding finely diced fruit, then rolling it up again and covering the whole surface with raw meringue mix, then baking it in the oven till the top is a pale shade of golden brown, with a marshmallow texture just beneath it.

Veteran Jerusalemites will also remember the days when there was a Carvel ice cream store on King George Avenue near the intersection of Ben Yehuda. People used to line up for the American soft ice cream, the take-home boxes of ice cream sandwiches, and the special occasion ice cream cakes.

Unfortunately, it closed. 

So-called American ice cream is still available in some places, But it doesn’t compare with Carvel.

We’re living in a time when vintage fashion is being recycled for a new generation of consumers. Perhaps vintage desserts will also come back into vogue. ❖