Do you like your ice cream by the slice? If so, this weekend is the Spumoni Festival across the globe. From its home in Naples, Italy to its commercial center in New York City, USA, the tri-colored ice cream is celebrated. Flavor combination taste testing, largest cube contests, and fastest scooping races are just some of the fun activities at Spumoni Festivals. Even my small town in Kentucky is celebrating with an ice cream toss for prizes. How many times could you volley a scoop of ice cream from cone-to-cone in the late August heat? I know my number…it’s 5.
The festival ends on 8/23/2021 which is the release date for Smoother Than Spumoni. Allow me to introduce you to Susie Larkin, the dolphin shifter in the Strawberry Shifters spin-off novella. Dolphins can’t eat ice cream so what is the connection? Susie is the heiress to Larkin’s Dairy Dip on Seagrass Island and our main character in Smoother Than Spumoni, part of the One Scoop Or Two series. Susie may be pedaling ice carts on the beach this summer, but once she has her MBA – she is building a frozen confection empire.
Susie has her eyes on the prize and it is in the opposite direction of the fated-mate meat market. While her friends are batting their eyelashes at every shifter of age, Susie is studying dairy prices and flavor trends. She is laser-focused until she meets Frank Paulino, an intern from the Strawberry pack. Here’s a snippet from Smoother Than Spumoni that will melt your heart:
“You put your sign away before I could read your flavor choices. Do you have spumoni by chance?”
“I-I,” I stammer. A decade of childhood speech therapy is reversed in milliseconds. With each syllable, my face boils from heat not related to the sun. Where is confident, professional Susie? I need my educated side to wake up and say something intelligent. Like…like…
“What’s a spumoni?” Oh, my goodness gracious, say anything but that. Of course, I know spumoni is an ice cream flavor, I have been making ice cream since childhood.
“Spumoni is an Italian flavor combo of ice cream. My mom makes it all the time and I thought I could ward off homesickness with it,” he says with a shy smile. Awww, he misses home. Could he be any cuter?
Okay, my turn to talk but my mouth fails to work. Scoop something, scoop something. “Here is Neapolitan,” I say, pointing the scoop into the case. “It is almost spumoni.”
He crinkles his nose at me, and I swoon like a doofus. “Neapolitan isn’t spumoni. Where are the dried fruit, the nuts, the Italian flag?”
“Of course, the Italian Americans ditched the patriotism for marketability when they substituted chocolate for the vanilla portion of the flag.” Phew, now I sound more like myself.
“Exactly, you can’t begrudge an American their chocolate. It is an instant moneymaker. A chocolate dessert boosts our profits by five percent at the restaurant back home.”
“Our chocolate ice cream flies out of the case during the busy season. If I were in charge, we would be packaging it to sell in grocery stores. A safe flavor would be a soft launch though,” I say, waving the scoop at him.
Is spumoni related to Neapolitan? The answer can be found in 1870s Americana when spumoni was first brought from Naples, Italy. Spuma is Italian for foams and Spumoni is its plural form. The original recipe had three ice creams of cherry, vanilla, and pistachio, all topped with whipped cream (foam) mixed with dried fruit and nuts. The dessert was sliced like ice cream cake (still is in Italy and Argentina). (from National Spumoni Day Facts).
As you can guess, America went wild for sliced spumoni even after the foam was removed for ease of eating. Imagine walking down a New York street with your slice of pizza in one hand and your slice of spumoni in the other. Having the foam would be a messy affair! The greater the popularity, the more the spumoni makers experimented. Chocolate was swapped out for vanilla to capitalize on America’s favorite flavor by 1880.
Spumoni is the grandfather to all tri-flavored ice cream, including Neapolitan. In 1885, you could purchase a slice of a Neapolitan Box which was three flavors of the day frozen side-by-side. They started with the traditional spumoni flavors but later added coffee, strawberry, and orange. With success came wild flavors like pineapple, black current, brandy brown butter, and tea. No matter what combinations were created, the classic strawberry, vanilla, and chocolate Neapolitan was the best seller. As the ice cream industry changed from slices to scoops around 1900, the Neapolitan box became the tri-flavored scoops we know today. (from Good Eats Ice Cream)
Today, spumoni festivals have taste testing of the wildest new flavors. How about Dragon’s Breath (cayenne chocolate), Unicorn (cotton candy), and Elf Ears (egg nog)? When my family visited a spumoni festival in Little Italy, my favorite was a floral combination of lemon thyme, strawberry rose, and orange blossom. My son surprised me by picking lavender, blueberry lemon, and orange crème as his favorite combination. I thought the Dragon’s Breath would have been a winner.
My mother and grandmother still serve their spumoni sliced with foam filled with pistachios, dried cherries, and chocolate chips. I’m the rebel who scoops hers. I also make mine with bourbon-soaked cherries. I do live near Louisville, Kentucky after all. While I have inspired you to drive to your local ice cream parlor, I need to get back to Smoother Than Spumoni. Here’s another snippet from Susie and Frank:
“Listen to me babble on about pasta and cheese prices while the rain has started falling,” he says, raking his fingers through his hair leaving a curl standing up. I must resist making a fool out of myself by smoothing it down. My hands twitch as I watch it wave at me from his head.
“No, the price of dairy is the driving force, beyond petroleum pricing, behind our price points in the ice cream world too,” I say to reassure him. I love studying commodities but somehow the subject becomes captivating when delivered in his soft, velvet voice.
“To take on the dairy industry for price points, you must really believe in your chocolate ice cream. I believe I’m sold,” he says. I’m too busy mooning over him to realize I’m supposed to be selling. We stand there for a moment with my scoop in midair. I am releasing the dry ice at the bottom of the case. Soon I will be the only frozen part of this operation.
Aww, nerd love. Will Susie and Frank put their ambitions aside long enough to give their relationship a chance? Once you finish that slice of ice cream, check out Smoother Than Spumoni, a sweet, new adult shifter romance with the summer lovin’ of Grease and the environmental conspiracy of the Pelican Brief.
Smoother Than Spumoni Buy Links
Susie Larkin is a dolphin shifter and heir to the humble Larkin’s Dairy Dip on Seagrass Island, FL. Pedaling ice cream from bicycle carts on the beach is just a stepping-stone for this future CEO of a frozen confection empire—or so she hopes.
Frank Paulino Jr. receives his first taste of freedom from Strawberry, KY in a summer internship at Bart’s Oyster bar. His pasta creations save the restaurant when red tide poisons the fresh fish of the bay, making him the most popular werewolf on Seagrass island.
Frank and Susie uncover a conspiracy that threatens not only the wildlife of the area but also their lives. Can these two shifters put their ambitions aside long enough to give their relationship a chance, or will Frank pay the ultimate price to protect Susie and the island she loves?
They move quickly, efficiently, and silently, only stopping to check over their shoulders every few minutes. When the exchange is complete, the truck starts again. Even though it is dark, without headlights they navigate unerringly through the native swamp.
“That was weird. You thought it was weird right?”
“Yeah, I want to know what is in those barrels.”
“Let’s leave it alone. We have been gone for months and have no idea how this area has changed. Let’s go home and ask our parents or Wilson.”
“Why? When one look at the label will answer all our questions? Besides, the truck has already left.”
“They could return.”
“As shady as they were acting, they aren’t coming back. Come on—”
“No way, Susie Q. We are going home.” Her voice shakes as she lays down her ultimatum. She can’t abandon me here in case I succumb to Red Tide on the swim home. However, tears have already started rolling down her cheeks. My bestie is terrified.
“You are right. Let’s go ask,” I say calmly. Why upset her more when I can bring a braver companion tomorrow? Surely a demon-slaying werewolf won’t be scared of a few barrels?
- Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, published microbiologist, special education/inclusion science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, certified spiritual/energy healer, and advocate for the autistic community. This puts her in the position to bring tales containing heroes who are regular people with different ability levels and body types, in a light where they are powerful, lovable, and appreciated.
When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula. She is a sucker (haha) for cheesy horror movies, Italian food, punk music, black cats, bad puns, and all things witchy.