A Brief History of Ice Cream

Plastic ice cream cups

It is no secret ice cream is everyone’s favorite frozen treat. The average American will consume it 28.5 times per year, and over 90% of U.S households are the ones indulging. Additionally, in any given two week period 40% of Americans will eat ice cream! It is hard to resist going out to an ice cream or frozen yogurt shop, with the cuteness overload that comes with it. There are the mini tasting spoons, colorful paper cups, and if you’re lucky the little gelato spoons that look like a colorful mini shovels. But, where did ice cream come from? Read on to learn a little bit more of the history of this frosty treat.

Ice cream’s origins have been known to be traced back to the second century BC, although no specific date has been recorded. It is possible the first version was shaved ice with flavoring. This method was enjoyed by Alexander the Great, who dabbed a little honey and nectar on his dessert. Additionally, during the Roman Empire Nero Claudius Cesar would send runners into the mountains to get ice and then flavor it with fruits and juices.

Over a thousand years later, explorer Marco Polo returned to Italy with a recipe from Ancient China that closely resembles today’s sherbet. Historians believe that this eventually evolved into modern day ice cream in the 16th century, with England enjoying the delicacy of what was known as cream ice. This was only enjoyed by the royals, and wasn’t made available to the general public until 1660.

The first official account of ice cream arriving in the Americas was in 1774. Ice cream soon ballooned in popularity with advertisements in local newspapers. There are even reports of George Washington spending $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790.

Just like in Europe, ice cream was a dessert only enjoyed by the wealthy until the 1880s. It was then that insulated ice houses were invented, and soon after manufacturing ice cream became an industry. And it just grew from there! Today, about 9% of all milk produced by dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream so it continues to be a popular dish despite its elitist roots!

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Francis Pitt

Francis Pitt has made a name for himself in farm-to-table organics, working at restaurants in Portland, Seattle and Burlington, Vermont. While he has a taste for the extreme, most of his restaurant’s top sellers are much more down-to-earth, regularly featuring mushrooms gathered from the slopes of the Cascades, and fresh wild-caught seafood from the Oregon coast. Inspired by trends in Portland, his latest restaurant offers the ultimate chef’s table: dinner begins in the morning at his island collective farm, and 4 lucky guests every week get to follow the food, literally, from the field to the plate! Francis is a firm believer that you are what you eat — do you really want to be a chemistry set?