matthew fuller on Thu, 13 Apr 2000 17:45:18 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Free Ice Cream and the ingredients of pleasure

Click Lick Quick
Free Ice Cream and the ingredients of pleasure

Like ice cream?  Like free software?  Feel the need for some kind of
combination? is the web-site for you.  Mark
Greco and Simon Pope are the founders of this project to liberate 'the
people's ice-cream'.  Over the past few months, they and their ice cream
maker have appeared at a number of events in London and Cardiff to dish
out hundreds of coppettas of cow-milk, cornflour, vannilla and sugar. 
Cooked in varying proportions these are the basic ingredients of the
tongue-pleaser.  Check out the ingredients on a tub of corporate
dairy-glue and you'll find a different story.  They're not just about
making popsicles rootsical though.  On the web site you'll find evidence
that the project of getting back to the base matter of ice cream is linked
straight away into social histories and into possibilities for not only
networking our cheap creamy pleasures but of finding ways that the
cultures of food and of technology can learn from each other. 

>On your web-site you talk about 'months of reverse engineering' ice
cream.  It's clear how a piece of software or hardware can be reverse
engineered with relative exactitude. How can this be done to food? Surely
what you're up to is more along the lines of forged t-shirts and perfume,
in that you arrive at a reasonable simulation of the ice cream you are
studying rather than a precise keyhole surgery on its composition? 

What we got up to was more 'crack' than reverse engineering. We wanted to
exploit a few flaws in manufactured ice cream -- that it contains
superfluous shit and is proprietory -- but we also wanted to recover a
lost (and inaccessible) recipe or 'source code'. Why does anyone crack
third-party software? Probably because there's something in there that's
annoying. Insulting even; like serial numbers or passwords. We like the
*idea* of what commercial ice cream is -- cheap, popular, social food --
but can't stand what it *actually* is. Why is guar gum in there? Why the
hell are flavour enhancers in there? We have the skills to crack
third-party ice cream , but not to re-assemble it. We can't modify it in
its native language or at the scale on which it is manufactured, so we aim
to abstract the code so as to work with it at a domestic scale.  We
generated diagrams to help us understand the relationships between
components, like some of the more arcane object oriented reverse
engineering methodologies. We identified classes and the relationships
between objects or ingredients. we generalised labelled ingredients into
classes according to accepted formulations for commercial ice creams: 
milkfat, milk solids-not-fat, sugar, stabilizers, emulsifiers and
flavours; then looked at the objects in each class and their properties. 
We found that some classes were useful only in mass-produced ices. there's
a surprise. Since we're making small batches of the stuff, we figured on
cutting them out. We're left with ingredients that can be combined in
different ways. The more sugar, the more 'bite' for example. Change the
property of the milk by heating it for longer and you get a thicker,
sweeter ice cream. What we've got is a generative machine: we can make
infinite recombinations of a few key ingredients. It proves that there's
no natural, ideal state for ice cream. No original to copy. We can make it
any way we choose, (and so can you). But it just so happens the one we've
chosen make at the moment is VERY close to Mark's lost family recipe...

hmmm. maybe it's no accident that the top-notch cracker tool is called

>You're operating out of Cardiff in South Wales, an area with a particular
regional pattern of post-war immigration from Italy - something resulting
in some of the excellent, and no so excellent ice-cream parlours in the
area.  What is the place of ice cream in South Wales, particularly the

There's a very close knit Italian commmunity in South Wales, mainly from
the Bardi region, many of whom migrated via Manchester or London. One of
the successes of these Italian newcomers was that they would deliver
whatever was demanded by the local community, such as peas, pies and
chips. Ice cream was one of the few truly homegrown Italian products that
found a place in the life of the Valleys.  There have been some massive
changes in this region in the past few decades -- but on our daytrip round
some of the existing parlours and cafes we found some evidence that ice
cream is as popular as ever. Mr Creemy in Tonypandy was heaving with dairy
enthusiasts on a cold, rainy Sunday evening in December.

>Mark, being an offspring of the world famous Greco ice cream family from
Wakefield you've got a genetic download of ice cream knowledge locked into
your bones. The history of all this is on the web-site. How does this
project relate to the kind of ice cream your family made?

Memory has been crucial to the project: the recipe that we use comes from
clues that my father gave me. For many years, the ice cream recipe had
been lost, through family feuds and entropy; during the initial
experiments we gave a taste to someone who remembered a rival's ice cream
-- a rival from Wakefield. He described our recipe in terms of theirs. 
>From my father's description of how the ice cream tasted and its
appearence we knew that the rival's recipe was close to that of the
Greco's, so it was no coincidence when the taster mentioned this
similarity, unprompted.  From this point we knew we were on to a winner. 

It was even reckoned by my Father that his type of ice cream just couldn't
be viably made and sold anymore. We guessed that this was because it
couldn't be stored for a long period of time -- it gets too icey -- and
present health and safety regulations are so strict.  One of the reasons
why make it on a small scale and give it away is that this is a way around
these limiting factors.

>Simon, you're a Devon boy, brought up on nothing but great clods of
clotted cream and milk still warm from the udder. Is this a way of
reprocessing your childhood pleasures in a more militant form?

Moving right along...  I suspect that the glut of ice cream in the South
West of England had something to do with the subsidies for milk production
in the 70s and 80s. A handful of farms started to produce their own very
rich ice creams from that time. Rocombe Farm is doing well now, so's
Langage Farm. You'll see these as THE English ice cream in supermarkets in
the UK. They're sold in small tubs, as 'rare' and luxurious items, at
premium prices. Physically, you can't eat much of them as they're just too
rich. So the small amount on your plate looks like a precious commodity; 
something to be savoured. A 'gourmet ice'.  But what happened to the ice
cream that was made for fun rather than luxury? 

>You make a link on your site to the Free Software Foundation. You give
the ice cream away free at various events. This coresponds to the 'Free
Beer' version of Freedom. How does 'Ice cream for Everyone' tie in with
the FSF's model of 'Free Speech'?  It was was Richard Stallman who
suggested we call it 'free'. This was after our first gig at the Foundry
in Old Street, London, where 'free speech' was definitely influenced by
the 'free beer'.  We mentioned that we're going to invite people to extend
the code base of the ice cream in whatever way they see fit -- so that it
became 'Open Source' in some way -- but we bowed to Stallman, for obvious
reasons, when he suggested "Not 'open source' ice cream; call it free ".
To paraphrase the FSF, "Free Ice cream" is a matter of liberty, not

 It's not that you don't have to pay for it, because we DO accept
donations, but this type of ice cream is YOURS. This is Ice Cream for
Everyone! A social food, rather than a insular, expensive self-indulgence. 
Stop watching Ally McBeal. Get out there and make ice cream.

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: