What's the difference between sorbetto and gelato?

Sorbetto, made without milk fat, is refreshing on a summer day.
Sorbetto, made without milk fat, is refreshing on a summer day. Photo: Christopher Pearce

What is the difference between sorbetti and gelato? I. Klajn

Both are frozen desserts originally made in Italy. One is plural, the other singular. The former is made with a syrup of water, sugar and fruit while the latter is generally made with a frozen milk-based custard. Sorbetto is probably the first frozen dessert. The name comes from the Arabic sariba, meaning "to drink" ("sherbet" derives from the same source), while gelato is derived from the Latin gelatus (frost). Both are delicious but, on a hot day, a sorbetto, made without milk fat, is definitely more refreshing. 

I have a pumpkin plant with all male and no female flowers. Are pumpkin flowers edible? L. McDonald

Sounds like the one child policy of the vegetable world. I have a great visual memory of the worn stone floor of the town market of Teotitlan del Valle in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. A great carpet of buttery golden squash blooms covered the palm mats on which the stallholders displayed their bounty. In that part of the world squash blooms, almost exactly the same as pumpkin flowers, are filled with the local soft fresh cheese and cooked on the comal – terracotta hotplate – until the cheese has melted and some had hardened into chicharron de queso – cheese crackling. You can tell them apart by sneaking a peek underneath the flower. Males are carried on thin stems while the female flower will have a small swelling. Only female flowers form fruit. Some pumpkins have bristly hairs on their stems. These can be removed by rubbing with a damp cloth. After that treat then as you would zucchini flowers.

What is tuna ventresca? P. Billings

I used to work with Australia's funniest man, Pete Smith from Channel 9. He warmed up the live audience on Sale of the Century with his ventriloquist doll. He had an entire studio audience of elderly ladies close to incontinent laughter as he suggested that they wouldn't be around for the next recording. "I don't mean that you'll have passed over," he said with a charming smile. "But that you'll have a bowls pennant next week, or it will be the day to wash your smalls." He explained to me that the word ventriloquist came from the Latin venter for belly and loqui, meaning speak. This was because it was supposed the person throwing their voice did so from their belly. You'll see the prefix "vent" in the name for lots of foods meaning they come from the belly. So ventresca is tuna belly and the ventricina salami is made with pork belly. Literary readers will be familiar with Le Ventre de Paris by Emile Zola.

Does a vegie sausage or vegie burger count towards your five servings of vegies a day? M Mc-Mc

In the words of Q & A's Tony Jones, "I'll take that as a comment".

Letters

We were recently talking about stopping skin forming on custard by using a cartouche, a round piece of paper laid on top of the hot custard. B. Boyce wrote, "While a cartouche works effectively, a layer of clingfilm laid on the surface of the custard, expelling any air, is ... a lot quicker and easier in a domestic setting." Thanks B. I just wanted to get the word cartouche in print because it looks and sounds interesting.

Send your vexing culinary conundrums to brainfood@richardcornish.com.au or tweet to @realbrainfood.