The story of ice cream connects some of the great names in history, from Renaissance Italy to the United States Revolution.
By Randee Thayer
A long time ago, someone came up with the idea of taking a single scoop of snow and adding tasty flavors to it. This blend of snow and honey or fruit juices was the beginning of what we now know as ice cream. Ice cream can be traced back to the second century. In the thirteenth century, Marco Polo created what we know as sherbet. Though some people believe it is a myth, many say that in Italy in 1553, Catharine de Medici came up with the recipe very close to the ice cream we know–and love–today.
Whatever the case, Antonio Latini is credited with being the first person to write down a recipe for sorbetto or, as we more commonly know it, sorbet, which has been cleansing the pallet for over 400 years. In 1686, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli opened Paris’ first café. The café introduced gelato, the Italian version of sorbet, and Procopio became known as the “Father of Italian Gelato.”
Some people believe that an ice box, similar to our freezers, was created to help keep ice cream frozen.
The first account of ice cream in America was in 1744. It was probably brought over with all of the European pioneers. In the summer of 1790, it is rumored that President George Washington spent over $200 on ice cream just for himself–this doesn’t seem like that much for some standards (mine). Thomas Jefferson is said to have kept several ice houses, each capable of holding up to 62 wagonloads of ice, along with large amounts of ice cream. Even the Lincolns had an appetite for the cold stuff. Before and during his presidency, Abraham Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd frequently hosted “strawberry parties” for friends in both Springfield, Illinois and Washington to celebrate berry season. Fresh ripe strawberries were served with cake as well as ice cream.
Meanwhile in 1846, Nancy Johnson created hand-cranked freezer that began the basic process of making ice cream still used today. Luckily for us, today most ice cream is made with way less labor and is way more satisfying.
Still, ice cream didn’t become widely available until the late 19th century. Actually, some people believe that an ice box, similar to our freezers, was created to help keep ice cream frozen, although this was still a step away from its being in everybody’s home. Ice cream became a morale symbol during World War II, where different branches of military tried to outdo others by giving ice cream to their troops. Then, after the war, Americans celebrated their victory with ice cream. It’s said that Americans consumed over 20 quarts of ice cream per person in 1946–you could also find a similar statistic for myself in the year 2015.
Ice cream’s evolution doesn’t usually come across our minds when we are scooping cold, delicious bites of creamy goodness. This tasty treat has come a long way from its origin. Who would have imagined a honey covered snowball could lead to such a delicious everyday treat?
Photo: Ice cream with waffle cone by Jimmy Cardosi on Flickr