Blue Bunny® Ice Cream - A Brief History of Ice Cream
The origins of ice cream reach back to the first centuries B.C. Yet, the ice cream recipe did not reach the New World until the 1700s.
Americans’ love affair with ice cream is centuries-old. The origins of the frosty treat reach back to the first centuries B.C., when, as the story goes, ancient Persians and Chinese stored ice to serve it with honey, rosewater or nuts. Furthermore, during Roman times, emperors sent their runners for mountain snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices and enjoyed.
Legends about ice cream’s history abound: In the 13th century, Marco Polo brought the first ice cream recipe to Europe after his trip to the Far East, and the Italian royalties fell in love with the dessert. Italian Princess Catherine de Medici brought the treat to France when she married King Henry II. In England, Charles I paid his cook a handsome sum to keep the recipe a state secret.
Most of these tales cannot be supported. Yet, it is true that over time the ice cream recipe evolved and spread throughout the continent. In the 17th century, the dessert became publicly available in Europe, and it is believed that in the 18th century the recipe crossed the Atlantic with European settlers.
Official records in the New World indicate that presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson developed a sweet tooth for ice cream. By 1813, ice cream became a state dish and was served at the second inaugural ball for President James Madison. As restaurants became more popular in the 19th century, ice cream became a favorite indulgence. Ice cream parlors and soda fountains spread as well.
By the mid 20th century, America had tried ice cream cones, bars and sandwiches. As time went on and technology advanced, ice cream manufacturers offered more yummy novelties.
Ice cream became a symbol during World War II, when each branch of the military tried to outdo the others in serving ice cream to its troops. By 1943, the U.S. military was the world’s largest ice cream manufacturer, and later the Navy built its first floating ice cream parlor for sailors in the Western Pacific. When the war ended, dairy product rationing was lifted and America celebrated its victory with ice cream.
Today, ice cream continues to be an all-American treat. In fact, the Ice Cream Capital of the World® is in Le Mars, Iowa, where more ice cream is made by Wells than in any other city in the world. Vanilla and chocolate continue to be favorite flavors, and there is no sign that Americans’ love affair with the frosty treat will end any time soon.