Ice cream is the world’s favorite dessert. There’s nothing better than finishing off a good three-course meal with ice cream, but if you’re not that hungry, it’s just as much fun to have as a snack, especially on a hot summer’s day! With so many flavors to choose from and so many different ways to serve it, it’s as versatile as it is delicious. Although it was invented by the Chinese and refined by the Italians, it’s most popular in the USA, where 90% of all Americans eat it at least occasionally. Because it’s served frozen, it’s natural to assume that it wasn’t possible to create ice cream until somebody invented the freezer, but that isn’t the case. Ice cream has actually been with us for thousands of years.
Far Eastern Origins
Although it’s not possible to decisively say who came up with the first-ever ice cream recipe, we know that the Chinese were producing it in the early years AD, and had even created something similar to it as long ago as 200 BC. The 200 BC recipe doesn’t sound particularly appealing; it was a mixture of milk and rice packed into snow. We’d prefer to eat the kind of dish that was enjoyed by King Tang of Shang somewhere around 650AD. The King must have had a sweet tooth; he employed a team of 94 people who created ice cream for him by mixing buffalo milk with camphor and flour.
Although the tales of the famous explorer and trader Marco Polo are known to have been exaggerated, he’s still credited with bringing milk-based ice cream to Europe. He’s believed to have watched ice cream being made on a trading trip to China, tasted it for himself and enjoyed it, and then returned home to Italy with the recipe. That started the Italian fascination with the dessert, which they refined into gelato and turned into a national dish.
From Europe To America
Once ice cream had become popular in Italy, it was only a matter of time before it spread to the rest of Europe. The average person wouldn’t have been able to afford it though; due to the exotic ingredients and the difficulties in producing the product, it was a luxury available only to the rich. The French finally got their hands on it when Catherine de Medici, an Italian aristocrat, married the French King Henri II in the 16th Century. When she moved from Italy to France, she took her team of chefs with her, and delighted the Royal Courts by having them produce ice cream in a variety of flavors.
For the next few centuries, ice cream was a status symbol; a preserve of the rich and noble. US President George Washington is known to have been served ice cream for the first time in 1782 in Philadelphia, where he was attending a party in honor of French minister Monsieur de la Luzeme, who had ice cream served as a special treat. Washington was so enamored with it that he paid $200 for the recipe and had it made for himself at home regularly.
Finally, by the early 20th century, technology had allowed for the creation of refrigerators and freezers for home use, and the price of ice cream began to come down. Manufacturers then had to wait for the end of the Second World War before they could really start to increase production levels, and ice cream began its journey towards its current level of ubiquity somewhere around the 1950s. Today, the value of the global ice cream market yearly stands at over $60bn.
From its beginning up until the present day, ice cream has been involved in some interesting stories and statistics; not all of them pleasant! Here are just a few examples.
Strange Ice Cream Facts
- Charles I of England, who sat on the throne from 1625 to 1649, loved ice cream. He didn’t, however, love the idea of other people getting their hands on his ice cream recipe, which he’d paid a significant sum of money for. It’s believed that when he suspected one of his ice cream chefs of distributing the recipe to members of the public, he was so infuriated that he ordered the chef to be executed!
- Even with modern technology, making quality ice cream is not an easy process, and it demands significant volumes of milk. For every one gallon of ice cream, ten gallons of milk are required to be introduced to the mixture and reduced down to create the ice cream mixture.
- Ice cream is so popular that a very successful online slot has been created that uses ice cream as a theme. The 99 Time slot, which is available at RoseSlots.com, pays out prizes when players are able to create matching rows of ice cream colors and flavors. There’s even a special bonus round in the slot game which offers players the chance to build an ice cream themselves, with further prizes available for doing a good job!
- Nowadays we expect to see ice cream served in cones, but this is a comparatively recent development. It’s generally believed that the first time this occurred was during the 1904 World’s Fair, which was held in St. Louis. Before that it was served exclusively in bowls, and usually topped with chilled fruits instead of the many varieties of topping we enjoy today.
- The ice cream sundae is an American invention. Toward the end of the 19th century, religious leaders in the town of Evanston took issue with ice cream sellers working on a Sunday to produce ice cream, and the size of the crowds that ice cream outlets drew, which they felt distracted from the duty of attending church. As a result, they banned the sale of ice cream on Sundays. The retailers replaced the soda they used in their ice cream recipes with syrup, and changed the name to ‘Ice Cream Sunday’ to get around the ban. Religious leaders still weren’t happy, and so the ‘y’ at the end of ‘Sunday’ was changed to an e to get around the problem.