You may know which flavours you like best and you may already be thinking about the next ice cream you’re going to try but do you know where this delicious, summery treat comes from? Ice cream today is adored across the world for being a tasty way to cool down, end a meal or treat yourself. But we are not the only civilisations to have enjoyed it.
Ice cream – in the beginning
Today, ice cream is incredibly popular and a huge market has been established around it with constant innovation producing fresh tastes and flavours all the time. However, it’s not actually a modern invention – the first ice creams date back 2,500 years and were enjoyed in Persia. These early ice creams were very different to the dessert that we know and love today. They didn’t involve any dairy but instead were made from water that was sweetened and then frozen and ground into tiny pieces. The ice flakes were then topped with a range of toppings and fruits.
The Greeks and Romans
The great civilisations in history have also found that they have a taste for ice cream. Both the Greeks and the Romans were big fans of ice cream and the noble classes considered it to be an essential part of banqueting. At the time, getting hold of ice was troublesome – it had to be transported from the mountains to the cities – and that meant that ice cream production became incredibly expensive. It was only really within the budgets of royalty and nobles so ice cream was something of a delicacy.
13th – 16th century
Ice cream experienced rather a lull for around 1,000 years as a result of the difficulties surrounding its production but was rediscovered again in Renaissance Italy. At the time, Italy was an incredibly important trading location for relations with the Middle East and Asia. Many credit the Italian aristocrat Catherine de’Medici with beginning the spread of ice cream across Europe. When she travelled to France to marry the Duke de Orleans in the 1500s, ice cream was one of the Italian innovations that she introduced to the locals (along with high heels). After that, ice cream began to become incredibly popular in France and England – and soon American street vendors were selling it too.
It was in 1926 that the biggest issue for ice cream was finally solved: refrigeration. Thanks to the invention of electrical freezers ice cream could now be produced on an industrial scale, which made it cheaper and much more accessible to the sweet loving masses.
After World War II the ice cream industry really began to grow, with the range of flavours expanding enormously and many more producers entering the market. Today, you won’t find many people who don’t eat it – in fact, 90% of American households eat ice cream and in the UK an average of 99 grams of ice cream is consumed per person per week.
Ice cream is a perennial favourite and has lost none of its appeal since the Persians first invented it 2,500 years ago. In fact, thanks to modern innovation in texture and flavour it’s only become more popular.