A Quick History of Ice Cream

Who doesn’t like ice cream? Did you know that 70% of all American households have at least of one pint of ice cream (or similar frozen treat) in their freezer right now!?

The origins of ice cream can be traced back to at least the 4th century B.C. Early references include the Roman emperor Nero (A.D. 37-68) who ordered ice to be brought from the mountains and combined with fruit toppings, and King Tang (A.D. 618-97) of China who had a method of creating ice and milk concoctions. Ice cream was likely brought from China back to Europe. Over time, recipes for ices, sherbets, and milk ices evolved and served in the fashionable Italian and French royal courts.

After the dessert was imported to the United States, it was served by several famous Americans. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson served it to their guests. In 1700, Governor Bladen of Maryland was recorded as having served it to his guests. During the 1770s, ice cream was referred to as iced puddings  and the cones were called wafers. During this period, wafers were considered as “stomach settlers” and were served at the end of the meal to calm digestion. They eventually became decadent treats and were an important element of the dessert course. When rolled into “funnels” or “cornucopias,” they would be filled with a wide variety of fruit pastes, creams, and iced puddings..

There is some controversy over who invented the first ice cream cone. Although some food historians feel that the first cones were invented in the United States in the 19th century, my research shows paper and metal cones were used in France, England, and Germany before the 19th century. There are written accounts of travelers to Düsseldorf, Germany eating ice cream out of edible cones in the late 1800s and even a record of cones being used in the 1700’s!

Although it might take a little work on your end, I encourage you to find a local ice cream shop that makes their own ice cream (and cones) in house. It is well worth the effort. It will cost more than the big box retailers, but the taste, quality, and unique flavors (like guava buttermilk) will make it impossible to ever go back to the boring options you’ll find in a grocery store.

Mark your calendars!

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by over 90 percent of the nation’s population. In this proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.

About Andre Moore (109 Articles)
Atlanta based Food Writer, Essayist, Hunter/Angler, and World Traveler. I create meaningful experiences for my family and write about it.

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