Sweet teeth drive The Pink Lady’s trade Photo: Rohan Thomson
Long before farmers' markets and boutique foods were the flavours of the month, Rhonda Arnall and ''The Pink Lady'' pioneered a mobile gourmet ice-cream experience that is now satisfying a new generation of Canberrans.
The well-travelled Florey resident and her rare 1970s-vintage Ford Transit ice-cream van have been a fixture at Canberra markets, car meets, musical festivals and even the CSIRO Christmas bash since 1996.
Their partnership began when a Tuggeranong couple advertised their ice-cream maker for sale.
''Because it was on the other side of town and I thought it might go quickly, I asked my sister to go out and look,'' Ms Arnall said.
''When she got there she rang me and said 'they're throwing an old truck in as well.'''
The ''old truck'', was The Pink Lady, almost six metres of former Tip Top bread van that had been converted into a mobile ice-cream dispensary complete with windows, counters and refrigerators.
Ironically, while the ice-cream machine has yet to be put to use, the van has been the backbone of the business since day one.
Ms Arnall, now in her mid-50s, has collected a variety of experiences in her life. They include running her own restaurant in Aranda and then Cook for nine years and catering on a kibbutz in Israel.
She trained as a chef at the old Royal Canberra Hospital (but ''now they've blown it up'') and was the first woman chef apprentice of the year in the ACT. After that, the world was her oyster and she had stints working in New Zealand, England and Israel and at what is now old Parliament House.
Life on the kibbutz was interesting because it taught her a lot about how people reacted in a communal environment. ''The theory is one thing; the practice is another.''
When she returned to Australia in the 1980s Ms Arnall opened the Chameleon Restaurant and became interested in making ice-cream for the first time.
This interest grew to the point where it consumed the restaurant.
The Chameleon Ice Creamery, which supports The Pink Lady and an equally venerable yellow Bedford, is the result.
A born experimenter who loves to juxtapose unusual ingredients and flavours to see the results, Ms Arnall says she is sometimes surprised by people who ask if she makes her ice-cream. ''My response is to say 'would Mr Streets make a potato and mint sorbet?'''
Her experimental approach, which is finally starting to spark the interest of foodies and the like, is based on using natural ingredients to flavour the product.
Her banana ice-cream is made with bananas. Potatoes for the potato and mint sorbet come from Crookwell (''I like to use pontiacs'') and most of her berries are grown within 20 metres of where the ice-cream is made.
The Pink Lady, which bears the patina that comes with a life well lived, has proved an excellent investment and is regularly mobbed by the children of the children who were among its first customers nearly 20 years ago. Neither she, nor her owner, have any intention of standing down just yet.