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MARY BRASWELL: Looking Back July 20, 2014

HISTORY: A look at all things “ice cream.”

Each week Albany Herald researcher Mary Braswell looks for interesting events, places and people from the past. You can contact her at (229) 888-9371 or mary.braswell@albanyherald.com.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with “appropriate ceremonies and activities.” Here is a look back at all things ‘ice cream.’

A scoop of history

— Ice cream’s origins are known to reach back as far as the second century B.C., although no specific date of origin nor inventor has been indisputably credited with its discovery.

The United States consumes more ice cream than any other country. Which country holds the #2 spot?

a) New Zealand

b) Denmark

c) Sweden

d) Canada

Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. Biblical references also show that King Solomon was fond of iced drinks during harvesting. During the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices.

— In 1664, ices made with sweetened milk first appeared in Naples.

— Ice cream was served at a banquet for the Feast of St. George at Windsor Castle in 1671. It was such a rare and exotic dish that only the guests on King Charles II’s table had ‘one plate of white strawberries and one plate of iced cream.’ All the other guests had to watch and marvel at what the royal table were eating.

— It was in 1660 that ice cream was made available to the general public, at least in France. A recipe blending milk, cream, butter and eggs was introduced at Café Procope, the first café in Paris.

— Wealthy people built ice houses on their estates. Ice, farmed in winter from lakes, ponds and rivers, was stored under straw and bark, until the summer when it was used for cooling drinks, making water ices and iced creams.

— The first official account of ice cream in America comes from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen.

— The first advertisement for ice cream in America appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777.

— Records from a New York merchant show that President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790.

— In 1813, Dolley Madison served a strawberry ice cream creation at her husband’s second inaugural banquet at the White House.

— Until 1800, ice cream remained a rare dessert enjoyed mostly by the elite. Around 1800, insulated ice houses were invented. Manufacturing ice cream soon became an industry in America.

— In 1874, the American soda fountain shop and the profession of the “soda jerk” emerged with the invention of the ice cream soda. In response to religious criticism for eating “sinfully” rich ice cream sodas on Sundays, ice cream merchants left out the carbonated water and invented the ice cream “Sunday” in the late 1890’s. The name was eventually changed to “sundae” to remove any connection with the Sabbath.

Immigrants at Ellis Island were served vanilla ice cream as part of their “Welcome to America” meal.

— In 1945, the first “floating ice cream parlor” was built for sailors in the western Pacific. When the war ended, and dairy product rationing was lifted, America celebrated its victory with ice cream. Americans consumed over 20 quarts of ice cream per person in 1946.

This’n That

— Today, on average, Americans eat 23.2 quarts of ice cream, ice milk, sherbet, ices and other commercially produced frozen dairy products each year.

— The most popular flavor of ice cream is vanilla followed by chocolate and then strawberry.

— It takes an average of 50 licks to finish off a single-scoop ice cream cone.

— In the U.S., to be labeled as ice cream, a product must contain a minimum of 10 percent milk fat but the major ingredient is air.

— The ‘brain freeze’ effect is triggered when cold touches the mouth’s roof, which causes blood vessels in the head to dilate.

In good company

— In 1866, William A. Breyer of Philadelphia hand-cranked his first gallon of ice cream. Breyer opened his first retail ice cream shop in 1882 and continued to make all of the ice cream in the back of the shop, cranking it by hand and delivering it with his horse-drawn wagon.

— Blue Bell Creameries, based in Brenham, Texas, opened its doors in 1907. Local farmers decided to establish the Brenham Creamery Company and make butter from excess cream brought in by area farmers. A few years later, the creamery began making ice cream. It was in 1930 that the company changed its name to Blue Bell Creameries after the native Texas bluebell wildflower.

— Dippin’ Dots is created by flash freezing ice cream mix in liquid nitrogen. Because the product requires storage below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit, it is not sold in grocery stores.

— Mayfield Dairy Farms was founded in 1923 by T.B. Mayfield Jr. It is now run by his grandson, Scottie Mayfield. Athens, Tennessee is the home of the company’s headquarters.

— Good Humor, originally only chocolate-coated ice cream bars on a stick, began business in 1920. Creator Harry Burt outfitted a fleet of 12 street vending trucks with freezers and bells from which to sell his creation. The first set of bells came from his son’s bobsled. In the early days, Good Humor men were required to tip their hats to ladies and salute gentlemen.

— On August 4, 1938, in Kankakee, Illinois, a ten-cent “all you can eat” trial sale at a walk-in ice cream store was held featuring a new soft ice cream. Within two hours, more than 1,600 servings of the new dessert were dished out. The sale was the beginning of what became the Dairy Queen.

Words of wisdom

— My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just to enjoy your ice cream while it’s on your plate. - Thornton Wilder

— When I’m no longer rapping, I want to open up an ice cream parlor and call myself Scoop Dogg. - Snoop Dogg

— Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal. - Voltaire

— Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone. - Jim Fiebig

— What makes me happy is just curling up with my mom in her bed and watching a marathon of “CSI” and “Grey’s Anatomy” episodes with pints of ice cream. - Taylor Swift

— Not everyone likes all our flavors, but each flavor is someone’s favorite. - Irv Robbins (as in Baskin-Robbins)

QUIK QUIZ ANSWER

a) New Zealand