Free Press Journal

National Ice Cream Day: Digging into the history of the frozen delight


From Asia to Europe, ice cream has travelled down the centuries acquiring flavours and styles, writes SHIKHA JAIN

It’s cold. It’s sweet. It’s creamy. It is something that tastes like a dream and feels like a silk cloud melting in your mouth. From India’s Kulfi to Italy’s Gelato, the world’s finest frozen delight, ice cream is an iconic all-season treat around the globe. On the occasion of National Ice Cream Day today, let’s dig back into the history of ice cream and learn more about it.

Ice cream used to be a rare and prized dessert; only the very wealthy could tap into this delicacy because without the resources – in part namely access to some form of freezing apparatus – ice cream is as good as liquid.

Ancient history has witnessed more than one type of sweetened or flavoured frozen dessert…

The first and the follow-ups
Famous for the several myths around its origin, ice cream was evidently invented in China around 200 BC when people created a dish of rice mixed with milk that was then frozen by being packed in snow. King Tang of Shang of China had a method of creating ice cream and milk.

In 400 BC, the Persians invented a special chilled food made of rose water and vermicelli, which was served to the elite during summers, which is now known as Faloodeh. We know that Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavoured with honey and nectar. Another early ice cream-like indulgence had Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar of Rome send people up to the mountains to collect snow and ice which would then be flavoured with fruits and juice.


A thousand years later…
The explorer, Marco Polo is believed to have seen ice cream being made in China during his trip that made him introduce it to Italy. The ice cream in question is similar to the modern day Sherbet. The craze quickly spread across Europe’s upper class and royalty during the 1500s. And it would be only available to the rich and powerful.

Kulfi, considered as the traditional ice cream of India, originated here in the 16th century at the time of the Mughal empire. Mughals used relays of horsemen to bring ice from the Hindu Khush to Delhi, where it was used in fruit sorbets.

charcoal ice cream

Ice cream goes places
It made its way to America in 1744 when a Scottish colonist visited the Governor of Maryland and wrote about the ‘delicious strawberry ice cream’ he had eaten. England seems to have discovered ice cream around the same time or even before Italy. It is believed that ‘cream ice’, as it was called, appeared regularly at the table of Charles I during the 17th century. It is also said that the monarch had paid a handsome amount to his chef to keep the recipe a secret from the general public!

Finally, ice cream for the people
Advances in commercial refrigeration in the early 1900s allowed greater public access to ice and cold storage. Ice cream is no longer a treat just for the cream of society, but for everyone. No one considered ice cream making as an industry until Jacob Fussell of Baltimore in 1851. He was a milk dealer looking for a way to keep a steady demand for his cream. He discovered that he could do so by turning the milk into ice cream. In the current time, ice cream is found in every nook and corner with varied brands. It is still evolving and changing each year, with new flavours being introduced and tasty recipes being developed.

On that note, let’s all raise our spoons to ice cream!

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