There is nothing like the cool sweet taste of ice cream on a blazing day. Ice cream is my all-time favorite dessert and I know I’m not alone. For many, the thought of this refreshing treat evokes idyllic childhood memories of blissful summer days. Most people love ice cream and can instantly name their favorite flavor when asked.
According to historians, frozen delights have been around for at least 2,000 years. Ancient humans mixed snow and ice with honey, juice, and fruit. The Roman emperor Nero, who reigned from 54 CE to 68 CE, ordered his slaves to fetch snow from the nearby mountains. They mixed this ice with fruit juice, thus creating the first slushies. The ancient Chinese took this a step further by adding milk to the mix to make a treat that was similar to the ice cream we are familiar with today. Frozen dairy desserts, which included camphor—a substance that comes from camphor trees and holds a powerful scent—goes as far back as the Tang Dynasty, which began in 618 CE. Camphor made the treats visually appealing and was also believed to have medicinal benefits.
Ice cream eventually made its way to Europe during the following centuries. One rumor, which turns out to be a tall tale, claims that Marco Polo brought recipes for ice cream to Italy after he visited China in the 1200s. Ice cream gained popularity in Europe during the 1600s. Chocolate flavoring became an addition to the usual fruit juices when the Spanish conquistadors brought the ingredient from Mexico and Central America to Europe in the late sixteenth century. Not long after that, the dessert became a part of life in the American Colonies. Thomas Jefferson adored ice cream so much that he served it at parties. Ice cream was very difficult to make until Nancy Johnson invented the first ice cream maker in 1843. Today there are ice cream makers modeled after her original design. The first ice cream factory opened in 1851. It became so popular that several other factories followed, allowing more and more people access to this wonderful dessert. Alfred L. Cralle, a Black inventor and businessman, became known for inventing the ice cream scoop in 1897. This made ice cream much easier to serve.
Today, ice cream comes in many shapes and sizes: sundaes, scoops in a cone, ice cream sandwiches, bars, pops, and Eskimo Pies. Ice cream had become so ubiquitous in the United States that in 1984, then president Ronald Reagan declared July as National Ice Cream Month. So, in honor of this month, you can try different ice cream flavors. Perhaps you’d like to be daring and sample pizza or bacon-flavored ice cream. Or maybe you’d prefer to stick with the classics such as vanilla or chocolate, or something in between.
Whatever you choose, there are plenty of books in the Los Angeles Public Library that are about ice cream, and some even offer enticing ice cream recipes. Have a delicious time in July!