The Ice Cream Age

More than 4,000 years ago civilizations started serving ice for cold foods. The ancient civilization of Mesopotamia has the earliest recorded ice houses in existence, though only the wealthy had access to these. In addition, pharoahs of Egypt would have ice shipped to them. The Greeks most likely ate ice cream in its earliest form: the snow cone. In the fifth centure BC, ancient Greeks sold ice mixed with honey and fruit in the form of snow cones throughout Athens markets. A trend of mixing ice with fruit, honey and sometimes different types of nuts continued for the next few centuries.

ice cream cone

Real ice cream recipes first appeared in the 18th century in England and America, and the first recipe was published in Mrs. Mary Eales's Receipts in 1718. Ice cream was introduced to America by Quakers who brought recipes with them. People sold ice cream in developing colonial cities like New York. Historical figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamen Franklin, and James and Molly Madison were known to eat ice cream regularly. Ice cream was even served at James Madison's inaugural ball.

In 1843, the first U.S. patent for a small handcranked ice cream freezer was issued to Nancy Johnson of Philadelphia, while the invention of the ice cream soda added to the growing popularity of the treat. Next came the ice cream sundae, which started in teh late 19th centure, and it's rumored that the sundae was a way to get around the fact that sodas were forbade on Sundays. The use of the ice cream cone and the banana split were popularized in the early 20th century.

After cheap refrigeration became popular in the mid 20th century, ice cream consumption expanded to most classes of people resulting in an explosion of ice cream stores. Additionally, the 20th century brought the development of soft ice cream, which was developed by a chemical research team in Britian (the young Margaret Thatcher was a member). Though soft serve was popular, the 1980s and on was more about thicker ice cream such as Ben & Jerry's.