A trip around the UK’s ice cream vans

Filling vans are a standard feature of the foodie scene. There’s no point treating an ice cream van like a shiny gold dirigible if it doesn’t have a lift up its tail; the Ice Cream Van’s small drive unit is, in truth, pointless. Though instead of simply the traditional cart carriage the van opts for a lift over each side of the cart too (the little upright stabilising pole that the wagon so customarily carries is covered in tea, they say). On the side of the cart there’s a small inflatable box that accomodates visitors’ drinks and children’s cakes. This frees up the two flat stacks in the back of the van (the rest of the cart decked out in posters and other paraphernalia) and, far more handy, it frees up space for the tins, “very important components in the continuation of the quality of life of a certain segment of the public”, as Brenda (the Ice Cream Van’s owner) put it. (Complicated names are pretty much a minimum at the Ice Cream Van.) The size of the inflatable units seems to fall into two categories: the larger open units that blow gale-force winds, are vulnerable to falling over and if, god forbid, should one be found toppling upside down people would be less than thrilled to find themselves with 10 knobs in their mouths. (Tis the season for such misfortune.) The smaller units also have a mind-boggling number of knobs on them.

The ice cream is excellent and completely reasonably priced. There are several different flavours – a riff on Strawberry Dolce Vita – which Brenda has developed with her South African partner (and thus a Maasai-esque metaphorical offspring of ice cream). Brenda, who is, it should be noted, in her 50s, has a suitably anthropomorphic language when it comes to eating things that are on offer. One, she says, is an abridged “European vanilla flavour with just a hint of yummy.” The other is a much more generous “Spanish vanilla flavour with just a hint of chocolate.” The little bars are warmly satisfying and, yes, everyone is starting to fall asleep.

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