An Ice cream story: Digging into the history of the frozen delight

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“I love Ice cream”, my friend declared and stared at me, unleashing a magical wand in the form of a single finger. Ice cream is one delicacy that appeals to both the young and the old. We found ourselves drooling over the lavish display of flavours- but then we realized something more complex than deciding which flavour we want is whether we like it in a cone or a cup. The cup will be super easy to handle and drip-proof, I said. But my friend, on the other hand, a cone is pretty, will make for an excellent Instagram picture and is delicious! The brain screams cup, but the heart is already running after that gorgeous waffle cone! And this is how we end up on ice cream since our childhood. Even those bent on losing weight and keeping to a healthy regimen cheat sometimes with ice cream. 

An Ice cream story: Digging into the history of the frozen delight
History of the delight

It is one dessert on which I always rely. It has been the best companion, whether after a tough breakup, when you want to meet friends, on a date walk, or even for no reason. But ever wondered where it started? If not, let’s dig deeper into the history of Ice cream that dates back to the second century B.C. As per IDFA, neither a specific date of origin nor inventor has been undisputably credited with its discovery. But the IDFA dates ice cream’s roots back to 2 B.C. 

An Ice cream story: Digging into the history of the frozen delight
Dates back to 2 B.C

The ice was flavoured with honey and nectar, which was enjoyed by Alexander the Great, but that’s not proof that he was the inventor. Some Biblical references also show that King Solomon was fond of iced drinks during harvesting, but there is no specific date of origin. The King Tang of Shang had 94 ice men who helped make a dish of buffalo milk, flour and camphor in China in 618-97AD. In about 200 BC, ice cream was invented in China with a milk and rice mixture frozen by packing it into the snow. But this was never confirmed with facts. Even Nero Claudius Caesar (A.D. 54-86) of the Roman Empire was a fan of ice since he frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, flavoured with fruits and juices. Interestingly! These facts still don’t confirm the origin & creator.

An Ice cream story: Digging into the history of the frozen delight
Harvesting Ice

But still, since my first lick of ice cream, it has been an endless love story. Every spring, summer, fall, and winter spent craving it. It was always this creamy frozen delight if I was happy, sad, or anywhere in between. Well, coming back to history- over a thousand years later, Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East. He brought a recipe that closely resembled what is now called sherbet. An estimate made by historian Marco Polo’s recipe evolved into ice cream sometime in the 16th century.

Italian Delight

Interestingly England discovered this delight simultaneously, or even earlier than the Italians. Because Charles I, during the 17th century, had “Cream Ice” regularly served at the table. Florentine Catherine de’ Medici introduced the French to frozen desserts in 1553 when she married Henry II, just like macarons. In 1660 the general public got a chance to taste Ice cream. And Sicilian Procopio introduced a recipe blending milk, cream, butter and eggs at Café Procope, the first café in Paris.

An Ice cream story: Digging into the history of the frozen delight
London Delights

Well, that’s a pool of facts about ice cream. And to be honest, on my road to discovering dairy-free ice cream options landed with the classic sorbet. A dairy- and nut-free option is free of the most common allergens while maintaining a delicious taste. However, sorbet has taken a back seat for years now. Even though sorbet is not as creamy as ice cream, it’s been a great way to satiate sugar cravings and quench thirst simultaneously.

Started with Sorbet

If we talk about India, Kulfi is considered a traditional sorbet. It originated here in the 16th century during the Mughal empire. And Mughals used relays of horse riders to bring ice from the Hindu Kush to Delhi, where it was used in fruit sorbets. But the “New World” got its first account of ice cream hails from a letter written in 1744 by Governor William Bladen, a guest of Maryland. He wrote about the ‘delicious strawberry ice cream he had eaten.

An Ice cream story: Digging into the history of the frozen delight
Mugals & Kulfi

 Although unsurprisingly, ice cream also had fans among the famous founding fathers, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Ice cream prevailed as a rare and exotic dessert enjoyed mainly by the elite until 1800. As Hamilton fans might recall, Thomas Jefferson was an undisputed Francophile. He had a stock of French recipes, including one for gourmet vanilla ice cream. Aside from vanilla favouritism in the colonies, First Lady Dolley Madison also popularised strawberry flavour by making a “magnificent” version for her husband’s second inaugural banquet.

Old Factory

In the early 1900s, advancements in commercial refrigeration allowed greater public access to ice and cold storage. The creamy texture made me fall in love with the surface as it melted in my mouth. And in 1851, Jacob Fussell of Baltimore considered ice cream-making an industry. Being a milk dealer, Jacob was looking for a way to keep a steady demand for his cream. And he discovered that he could do so by turning the milk into ice cream. 

An industry

However, today, ice cream is found in every nook and corner, with various brands still evolving and changing each year. Many new flavours are being introduced, and tasty recipes are being developed. We can experiment with these different brands and flavours to find which one hits the spot when you are sitting at home. On that note, let’s all raise our spoons to icy cream delight!


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