My first visit to China was over twenty years ago but I remember it clearly and was reminded of an incident from that visit recently when I bought an ice cream from the small shop on the corner of the square. Lacking any appreciable skills in Chinese, I ordered by pointing at what looked like strawberry ice-cream on the poster. It was scooped into a cup and handed over and I tucked in. It was red bean flavour. I managed to eat it but beans are not, to the western palate, a suitable ingredient for ice-cream.
It reminded me of a similar incident on that first trip when an ice-lolly that looked from the wrapper to be lime flavour turned out to be chopped up green beans boiled in sugar water and then frozen. It was disgusting, though the child I gave it to after spitting out one bite seemed to like it well enough.
Over recent months though I've become fairly adept at not picking out the peculiar ones and the red-bean ice-cream was an exception. As I walked along the road through yesterday's glorious sunshine, sucking on what had turned out to be an unlikely, though not unpleasant, melon flavoured ice-lolly I noticed that as I sucked out the juice I was being left with ice.
I was instantly transported back to the nineteen seventies and memories of a "Jubbly". For those who don't remember this particular confection it was an oddity. It was a tetrahedron of thick paper inside which was a frozen, tetrahedral lump of slightly flavoured ice. The usual way to eat it was to tear off a corner and suck at the ice. The juice would come straight out leaving a slightly smaller block of unflavoured ice. You could, of course, also let them thaw and tear off a corner as a drink, or let them partially thaw and turn into an iced drink for a hot day. They came in various flavours though all of them were pretty weak.
In my memory I was eating them all the time, though that obviously can't be true. I must have taken time off to eat something rather more nutritious than frozen, coloured water.
I see from the internet that something very similar is still available today but I can't believe it's the same thing. I can't believe that we were prepared to pay money for them and in these more economically savvy times it would be a miracle if anyone would buy them. I expect that nowadays they are made with more concentrated flavour, probably a lot more chemicals too, but in my mind they are an inseparable part of the summers of my childhood.