Read an Excerpt: Ice Cream: A Global History, Published Today
Child with Ice Cream cone. Photo: Laura B. Weiss
My new book, Ice Cream: A Global History, (Reaktion Books), is being published today, April 1. It’s a fun trip around the word of ice cream. Readers journey from ancient China where ice cream was concocted with dragon eyeballs and camphor to modern-day Turkey where ice cream vendors still make a frozen dessert that’s so thick it requires a knife and fork to eat.
Click here to order Ice Cream: A Global History.
Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:
Everyone Loves Ice Cream
I scream, you scream,
we all scream for ice cream!
Howard Johnson, Billy Moll and Robert King.
It’s called gelato in Italy, glace in France and morozhenoe in Russia. From Tokyo to Turin, from Denver to Delhi, everyone loves ice cream. With the possible exception of romance–‘Your love is better than ice cream’, singer Sarah McLachlan has crooned – there are few of life’s pleasures, culinary or otherwise, that can match ice cream’s potent allure.
What accounts for the sweet frozen treat’s irresistible appeal?
First, ice cream is just plain delectable. Composed of cream or milk, sweeteners and flavorings, which are churned and frozen, ice cream boasts an icy sumptuousness. What’s more, ice cream packs an emotional wallop. Stoking the pleasure-producing regions of the brain, ice cream is known for its ability to generate feelings of well-being,
‘It’s amazing how quickly you recover from misery when someone offers you ice cream’, marvelled teenager Eugene Jerome in Brighton Beach Memoirs, American playwright Neil Simon’s coming-of-age play.
Of course, ice cream tantalizes the taste buds and delights the eye. There’s the frothy ice cream soda sipped through a straw at the neighborhood soda fountain. There’s the luxurious taste of a gelato-topped cone, relished while strolling through the streets of Rome. There are the Indian kulfi walas hawking cardamom-perfumed kulfi on the streets of Delhi and Mumbai….
As befits a food so strongly identified with fun, the story of ice cream is a lively one. It’s a movable feast peppered with Chinese emperors and English kings, former slaves, women inventors, shrewd businessmen, Italian immigrant hokey pokey ice cream vendors, a gourmand First Lady, health food advocates, temperance apostles and modern-day food snobs.
Though the Chinese are said to have been the first to fashion a dairy-like frozen dessert, ice cream as we now know it was initially formulated in Europe, principally in Italy, but also in France, England and other parts of the Continent.
Ice cream then traveled across the Atlantic to America. In fact, Americans like to claim ice cream as their national dessert, conferring upon it a status rivaling the mythic apple pie…..
Despite the sizable American influence, indigenous ice cream cultures flourish worldwide. For example, Italian gelato is prized by ice cream connoisseurs everywhere. In Turkey and parts of the Middle East, salepi dondurma, an ice cream enhanced with orchid root, continues to flourish.
Still today, national ice cream traditions are fading, blending into a universal version of what once was a distinctive
Even gelato, that supposedly sacrosanct Italian ice cream, has been transformed (corrupted, some might say) by outside influences. There’s now green tea and cheddar cheese gelato being served from Des Moines to Delhi. In Italy, sampled flavors like ginger and spicy Aztec chocolate, some clearly not handmade and displaying flavor notes culled from regions far beyond Florence and Rome.
In fact some might ask at this point: is gelato even Italian any more?