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July 12, 2005 > National Ice Cream Day

National Ice Cream Day

by Ceri Hitchcock-Hodgson

Ice cream has been around for thousands of years and is considered one of the oldest known foods by historians. The Chinese are credited for creating ice cream in 3000 b.c. and Greeks and Romans used to delight in fruit purees mixed with snow and sweetened with honey (the first sorbets). The ice cream we enjoy today is a variant of the sweet treat created by Florentine architect, Bernardo Buontalenti, the "Father of Modern Ice Cream" and served for the first time in1459 at the opening banquet of the Belvedere Fortress in Florence. Italy remains a key force in the industry producing 560 thousand tons and four billion euro per year.

While Italy may have been ice cream's birthplace it was in France that it began to develop in to the indulgence we enjoy today. The creamy treat spread northward through Europe via France's royal court (the only individuals who had the treat). "French-style" ice cream and its American counterpart, "Philadelphia-style," are egg-yolk enriched products made with the finest ingredients. The egg yolk/custard base creates a richer flavor and creamier texture. Vanilla is the most popular flavor of this genre (French Vanilla anyone?)

In 1671, ice cream was a menu item of a feast for the Knights of the Garter held in St. George's Hall at Windsor Castle. However, at this time it was such an exclusive dish that it appeared only on the king's table. Queen Anne, during whose reign ice cream continued to be a luxury enjoyed only at court and by the nobility, was also a fan of the cold confection.

In the second half of the 18th century, ice cream, as all trends do, trickled down from the elite to the masses. Wealthy Victorians enjoyed inviting people over for dinner parties, featuring several courses. Even though they did not have modern day freezers the Victorians loved their ice cream, creating as many concoctions as possible. They made them in beautiful molds to look like the different ice cream flavors - a pineapple flavored ice cream would be pineapple shaped, strawberry in a berry-shaped mold and so.

The first ice cream parlor in America opened in New York City in 1776. Invention of the ice cream soda is usually attributed to Robert M. Green, who operated a soda water concession in Philadelphia. Green, who sold a mix of carbonated water, cream, and syrup, ran out of cream and substituted ice cream, hoping his customers wouldn't notice. But they did and daily sales receipts climbed from $6 to $600.

You can experience the fun of ice cream's fashionable heights at the Victorian Ice Cream Social at Historic Shinn Park. It is the Mission Peak Heritage Foundation's largest fundraiser of the year for the 4.5-acre park, which it jointly operates with the city of Fremont.

Admission to the park is free the day of the event, Sunday, July 17, National Ice Cream Day. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the gardens of the Shinn House ice cream sundaes will be for sale. During the Victorian soiree you can take a guided tour of Shinn house or check out the display of antique cars from the Acorn Model A Club.

Victorian Ice Cream Social
Sunday, July 17
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Shinn Historic House and Park
1251 Peralta Blvd., Fremont
(510) 795-0891


The first official account of ice cream in the New World comes from a letter written in 1700 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen. The first advertisement for ice cream in this country appeared in the "New York Gazette" on May 12, 1777, when confectioner Philip Lenzi announced that ice cream was available "almost every day." Records kept by a Chatham Street, New York, merchant show that President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790.

Wide availability of ice cream in the late 19th century led to new creations. 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 1890s. The name was eventually changed to "sundae" to remove any connection with the Sabbath.

Ice cream became an edible morale symbol during WW II. Each branch of the military tried to outdo the others in serving ice cream to its troops. 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. Today Americans consume over 5 gallons per person per year.

 
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