Lemon is the vanilla of Italian ices

The 6/7 Zippy takes us to the Jersey Shore for some water ice in a squeeze cup:

(#1) At the Strollo’s Lighthouse Italian Ice shop in Long Branch NJ: Zippy (alarmed at climate change) speaking on the left, Claude Funston (who denies climate change) on the right

On the setting. On Strollo’s. On lemon as the vanilla of Italian ices. On the relevant C(ount) noun ice, the nominal Italian ice, and the compounds water ice and squeeze cup. On Italian ice and the family of similar confections.

Background note: the strip. The panel in #1 is the final one in the full strip, which has political content I’m not pursuing in this posting:


(Every Zippy strip is about many things, some related associatively to one another, some just effusions of Bill Griffith’s imagination. Ya wanna write about his stuff, ya gotta pick and choose.)

Background note: Claude Funston. As seen in #2. From the Zippy site:

Claude is a perenially lovesick urban hillbilly with a cowlick on steroids whose real life closely parallels the guests on tabloid TV talkfests. He’s originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he worked in a bowling ball factory. He came to L.A. full of high hopes and found a job — working in a bowling ball factory. A searcher for life’s hidden blueprint, he’s always on the lookout for the “ideal” woman he can never quite find. He’s a barroom philosopher who dispenses trailerpark wisdom to anyone who’ll listen (mostly, it’s Zippy). He’s soulful, emotionally needy and full of comedic self-pity. Claude believes everything he reads in the National Enquirer. His dreams die hard and, as a result, he harbors a “dark side”, full of suspicion and paranoia. Fortunately, his darker urges don’t dominate him, and he comes off a little like a “Don Quixote of love”. He’s never truly introspective, but has a romantic image of himself (lots of “could’ves” and “should’ves”). When his optimistic nature backfires, he just goes on. He lives in an RV Park down by the freeway on-ramp, next to the 7-11.

Where are we? In #1 we’re in Monmouth County NJ, at the northern end of the Jersey Shore — just a bit north of Asbury Park (made famous by Bruce Springsteen) and a bit east of the Monmouth Park (thoroughbred) racetrack. On a map:


— showing all of New Jersey, including the southern Jersey Shore towns my family vacationed in when I was a child (Atlantic City, Ocean City, and Wildwood on the map, plus Stone Harbor, too small to make it on this map);

— stretching west to Reading PA, outside of which I grew up;

— including Princeton, where I went to college;

— and embracing both Long Branch, Red Bank, and Sea Bright (places where my first father-in-law Keene Daingerfield and his wife Velma stayed, in the 1960s, in summers when he was working as a racing steward at Monmouth Park), and also Cherry Hill (where they stayed those days when he worked at Garden State Park, outside of Philadelphia). (In the winters those days, Keene worked at the Hialeah track, in the Miami area).

The area is socioculturally complex, covering two major urban areas, extensive suburbs, rural farmlands, and the beach strip, and showing cultural influences spreading from both Philadelphia and New York City. The two big cities are culturally quite diverse, but one thing they share is large ethnic communities originating in immigration from southern Italy. Who brought with them an assortment of food customs, including granita, a confection made by freezing fruit juice or sweetened water into a crystalline form — what became the confection known as Italian ice (in the NYC culture zone) or water ice (in the Philadelphia zone).

The Strollo’s in #1, in real life:


From the app. website (a USA Today offshoot), “Strollo’s Lighthouse unveils sweet new flavors” by Shari Puterman on 4/20/15:

There’s nothing like a great “squeeze cup” of Italian ice.

(#4) Classic lemon ice in a squeeze cup

Growing up at the Jersey Shore, it’s a given that you’ll try one – or several – at some point.

I spent a lot of time in Long Branch as a kid, especially during the summer.

My father worked at Monmouth Park racetrack in Oceanport, and we’d meet him for dinner at one of our all-time favorite spots.

I’ll never forget the meatball subs we ate at the tables outside.

After dinner, we’d walk past the WindMill, looking at the massive crowds waiting for hotdogs and cheese fries, then stroll up to the beach.

Then back to our spot it was for the ultimate Jersey Shore dessert.

Jimmy Callano, 47, of Little Silver always welcomed us with a smile.

To this day, he treats thousands of customers just the same.

The only thing that’s changed is he no longer serves those amazing meatball subs.

Have you ever been to Strollo’s Lighthouse?

Chances are, you have — and if you haven’t, you’re missing out on one of summer’s signature sweet spots. [AMZ: I’ve certainly had Italian ices, but not at Strollo’s. Keene Daingerfield returned to Kentucky in 1973 to be senior state steward (working at Keeneland in Lexington and Churchill Downs in Louisville), so I no longer had anything drawing me to the Jersey Shore, and that was three years before Strollo’s appeared.]

“I grew up around Italian ice,” Callano tells me. “My great uncle used to sell lemon ice, and meatball [sandwiches] and sausage sandwiches in the 1930s out of a bus on Morris Avenue in Long Branch.”

Then, in 1976, Callano’s uncle, Ray Strollo, followed his father’s footsteps and started Strollo’s Italian Ice.

The Ocean Avenue property, formerly a gas station, was the start of an empire that’s still expanding [there are now other shops, in Point Pleasant Beach, West End, and Red Bank, at least].

. In the beginning, the operation was basic — sandwiches and four flavors of Italian ice: cherry, chocolate, orange and lemon.

But the greatest of these is lemon ice. If you sell Italian ice and have just one flavor, it’s lemon (and it’s white, innocent of food coloring; and the squeeze cup is paper). Yes, Claude Funston, lemon is the vanilla of Italian ices.

[Digression. And yes, Claude Funston, “lemon is the vanilla of Italian ices” is an instance of the analogical snowclone X is the Y of Z; see discussion of the snowclone in my 7/21/18 posting “Swiss America”, about various places claiming to be the Switzerland of America (including Dixville Notch NH, otherwise noted for being one of the first places to declare results during US national elections). You might even claim that “lemon is the vanilla of Italian ices” is the “Dixville Notch is the Switzerland of America” of frozen dessert snowclone exemplars.]

One of Strollo’s innovations was using soft-serve ice cream machinery to get fine textured ices of uniform quality, as here:

(#5) Some Strollo’s ices; Strollo’s also offers soft-serve ice cream as well

Some lexical notes on ices. Excerpts from the OED.

OED3 (Dec. 2012) under the noun ice:

4.b. A frozen confection eaten as a dessert or refreshment; (chiefly British) an ice cream, ice lolly, or portion of water ice; (North American) a frozen mixture of fruit juice or of flavoured water and sugar. [clear cites, as C (sg.an ice, pl. ices), from 1766 on]

OED3 (Sept. 2015) under the noun water-ice [also water ice]:

1. A frozen flavoured refreshment or dessert made with water and sugar, and typically no dairy ingredients. [1st cite 1798 in pl.: Water ices of all sorts. Most recent cite 1994 Harrowsmith Aug. 68/2 [with boldfacing of crucial material for use below] Water ices, that large family of sherbets, sorbets, sorbettos, granitas, frappés, spooms, spumas and slushes, call for combining puréed fruit (or some other flavouring) with a sugar syrup.]

Draft addition to OED2 on Italian, July 2009, for the noun Italian ice:

chiefly North American a frozen dessert similar to a sorbet or granita, typically made with fruit purée or syrup; a serving of this… In early use not as a fixed collocation. … 1826 New Monthly Mag. July 129 There were no other refreshments than cold spring water, à la Florentine — neither English tea, Italian ices, nor French punch. [‘ices from Italy’; a C use that is fully compositional] … 2000 N.Y. Mag. 1 May 33/1 I remember walking up Wall Street, on my way to get an Italian ice, and people were pointing at me. [now a fixed collocation; and again a C use]

Historically, ice was used only as a M(ass) noun, for reference to the substance, or stuff. The M usage continued to be available when a variety of flavored frozen confections were devised, as it is now: I can say that I’d like to have some lemon ice, meaning that I like to have a serving of the stuff (just as I can say I’d like to have some onion soup, using the M noun soup). But for about 200 years now, people have also been able to say they’d like a lemon ice, meaning some lemon ice, a serving of lemon ice, with countified ice easily available without any special contextualization. In contrast, I’d like an onion soup ‘a serving of onion soup’ requires contextualization — to ordering items at a restaurant, for example — and is not easily available “out of the blue”, as just a musing on the object of my current hunger.

Water ice is a N + N compound, which is subsective, given the ‘frozen dessert’ sense of ice above; but its semantics is opaque, since the compound would appear to be a pleonasm (what ice is not water?). Italian ice is an Adj + N nominal (also subsective, given the ‘frozen dessert’ sense of ice), with a specialized sense of the Adj, indicating some association (perhaps even fanciful) with the culture of Italy; compare Swiss steak, which I’ve posted about several times.

The actual confections. The range of terms is huge, often overlapping in reference, some associated with particular sociocultural contexts (as with water ice vs. Italian ice), and most exhibiting considerable variability.

One basic distinction: confections that are shaved ice with flavored substances added vs. confections that are (semi-)frozen juices or flavored syrups.

On the shaved-ice confections, see my 9/27/14 posting “Slush puppies”, on flavored ice drinks (Slurpees, Slush Puppies) and more solid shaved ice confections: snow cones and snowballs. On the last, from Wikipedia:

Snow cones are a variation of shaved ice or ground-up ice desserts commonly served in paper cones or foam cups. Although if it is in a cup, it is commonly referred to as a ‘snowball’. The dessert consists of ice shavings that are topped with flavored sugar syrup.

Depending on the region of North America, the terms “snowball” and “snow cone” may refer to different things. Where the distinction is made, the former refers to a dessert made of finely shaved ice (“like soft fresh snow”), while the latter contains ground-up ice that is coarser and more granular (“crunchy”).

[Many similar confections from various places are inventoried in the article.]

That leaves us with the sherbets, sorbets, sorbettos, and granitas from the OED entry, and more as well (in particular, gelatos). Some Wikipedian notes:

On sorbet:

Sorbet is a frozen dessert made from sweetened water with flavoring (typically fruit juice or fruit purée, wine, liqueur, or very rarely, honey).

The word sherbet first entered the language as the Italian sorbetto, which later became sorbet in French. The first Western mention of sherbet is an Italian reference to something that Turks drink. In the 17th-century, England began importing “sherbet powders” from Ottoman Empire made from dried fruit and flowers mixed with sugar. By 1662, a coffeehouse in London advertised the availability of “sherbets made in Turkie of Lemons, Roses and Violets perfumed”. In 1670, Café Procope opened in Paris and began selling sorbet. (In the modern era sherbet powder is still popular in the UK.) When Europeans figured out how to freeze sherbet they began making sorbetto by adding fruit juices and flavorings to a frozen simple syrup base. In the US sherbet generally meant an ice milk, but recipes from early soda fountain manuals include ingredients like gelatin, beaten egg whites, cream, or milk.

On granita:

Granita … is a semi-frozen dessert made from sugar, water and various flavorings. Originally from Sicily, it is available throughout Italy in varying forms. It is related to sorbet and Italian ice; however, in most of Sicily, it has a coarser, more crystalline texture. Food writer Jeffrey Steingarten says that “the desired texture seems to vary from city to city” on the island; on the west coast and in Palermo, it is at its chunkiest, and in the east it is nearly as smooth as sorbet. This is largely the result of different freezing techniques: the smoother types are produced in a gelato machine, while the coarser varieties are frozen with only occasional agitation, then scraped or shaved to produce separated crystals. Although its texture varies from coarse to smooth, it is always different from that of ice cream, which is creamier, and from that of sorbet, which is more compact; this makes granita distinct and unique. [The amount of sugar in the base syrup is also an important variable determining the smoothness vs. graininess of the result.]

Common and traditional flavoring ingredients include lemon juice, mandarin oranges, jasmine, coffee, almonds, mint, and when in season wild strawberries and black mulberries.

And gelato:

Gelato … is a popular frozen dessert. It is generally made with a base of 3.25% milk and sugar. It is generally lower in fat than other styles of frozen desserts. Gelato typically contains 70% less air and more flavoring than other kinds of frozen desserts, giving it a density and richness that distinguishes it from other ice creams.

Gelato as we know it is credited to the Sicilian chef Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli who in the late 1600s opened his “Café Procope” in Paris and introduced gelato at his café, making it gaining notoriety first in Paris and then in the rest of Europe. Thanks to his gelato, Procopio not only obtained French citizenship, but also got an exclusive royal licence issued by the Sun King Louis XIV, making him at the time the sole producer of the frozen dessert in the kingdom.

… The traditional flavors of gelato consist of vanilla, chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, cream (also known as custard), and stracciatella (fior-di-latte gelato with chocolate chunks).

The compound squeeze cup. The compound is not (yet) in the OED, but it falls in with a number of other compounds with squeeze as their first element. OED2 has an entry for

squeeze- comb. form: the verbal stem used (transitively) in combinations

That is, the compounds that follow are Ns, of the form V + DirObj N; most are subsective. For example:

noun squeeze bottle [also squeeze-bottle]: a bottle made of flexible plastic, squeezed to expel the contents [cites from 1953, 1964, 1976]

noun squeeze-box [also squeeze box, squeezebox]: slang …  (b) an accordion or concertina. [cites in this sense from 1936 through 1973]

noun squeeze toy: a child’s doll or similar toy which sounds when pressed. [cites from 1954, 1976]

noun squeeze tube [also squeeze-tube]: a tube-shaped container which yields its contents when squeezed. [cites from 1872, 1962]

A bottle you squeeze, a box you squeeze, a toy you squeeze, a tube you squeeze — in each case, for a desired result specific to the squeezed object, so the compounds are all semantically specialized.

So with squeeze cup, referring to a cup you squeeze, for the purpose of making the confection in it easily available for you to eat.

(Note: Lees’s Grammar of English Nominalizations (1960), p. 152, contrasts endocentric (subsective) V + DirObj N compounds like

pull chain, pushbutton, touchstone

with exocentric (non-subsective) examples like

killjoy, pickpocket, scarecrow

Neither type is numerous or, for the most part, productive, though the variety of squeeze examples is notable.)

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