This week we caught up with Kitty Travers, ice cream confectioner and founder of La Grotta Ices, our favorite spot for ice cream in London. We were eager to hear what possession she'd place in her so-called 'Permanent Collection.'
Kitty Travers: The 'things' I value most are fruits and plants, like the citrus I tend to bring back in my suitcase picked on trips to Italy. I wish I could make them more permanent and I suppose trying to candy them or turn them into ice cream is a way of immortalizing them, but I always end up eating them!
Permanent Collection: Okay... perishables...for a permanent collection. Unconventional! But tell us more about the significance of fruit in your life.
K.T.: Can living things count? If so I would choose a little fig tree I bought back from a trip to the botanical conservatory Giardini di Pomona in Puglia 2 years ago. Pomona is one man’s (Paolo Belloni) collection of over 400 different fig trees, cultivated from seeds from all over the world. My favourite of the 400 was a variety called Delphine, a beautiful small tree with violet, thin-skinned fruit which had the perfect amount of acidity—hard to find in a fig. Paolo gave me a baby tree as a present which came back on Easy Jet in a plastic bag, and is now planted at my mum's house in Kent as she has a walled southeast facing corner and can look after it better than me. Who knows? It may last 400 years.
P.C.: Tell us about your trustiest markets, for fruit or otherwise.
K.T.: My favourite markets are food ones, especially the kind you get in Italy, which sometimes have a couple of stands on the outskirts for local vendors selling things like bunches of borage and muddy walnuts and lemons on twigs cut from their gardens. But for clothes... I love Reign Wear on Berwick Street in SoHo (London) for its weird collection of less well known 1980s Italian designer labels and Germanic woolen ski wear. There’s a town in the South of France called Cogolin where they make pipes and woven carpets, and they have a WONDERFUL flea market every Thursday, which I have been known to base holidays around.
P.C.: Do you have a favorite museum or gallery?
K.T.: I love the ceramic collection at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge—this especially applies to the home wears—an astounding example of human artistry found in everyday items from around the world throughout the ages.
P.C.: What dish would be the equivalent to your ‘permanent collection’ thing?
K.T.: “Life-saving” dahl, which we cook about once a week, usually on a Sunday night when feeling exhausted and especially when feeling hung over. It's cheap, quick and easy and I never get bored of it. Simmer red lentils with turmeric, a split fresh chile and half a lemon. In the meantime, fry onions and curry leaves until crispy, adding grated ginger and garlic toward the end. Stir onions into the lentils along with a big lump of fresh butter and salt to taste. Serve with rice and extra lemon squeezed on top.
P.C.: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
K.T.: An amazing green La Perla bikini with black tiger stripes on it from my sister (who is a lingerie designer and knows how to choose) for my birthday, when I was about 23.
P.C.: Do you have any projects in the works?
K.T.: I always want to know more about ice cream making and eating traditions around the world. I’d love to go back to Brasil to Manaus where all the unknown fruits are delivered from the heart of the Amazon, and see whether they are making ice cream there.