“I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice-Cream!”
Ice cream in America has been so crucial to our culture. Restaurants sell it for dessert, ice cream shops and creameries sell it exclusively, and we even made a little rhyme for it!
As a kid, pushing through the “main-course” was really just the prelude to the main attraction for me. I’d nudge my green beans and rice aside, cross my arms, and exclaim “I’m too full to finish dinner!" My older sister, having gone through this routine with me all too often, passively replies: “well then, you must be too full for dessert.”
Nuh-uh, no way. “Nah, there’s ALWAYS room for ice cream!”
As it turns out, my 8-year-old logic regarding ice cream has little changed, and even as an adult, one illogical rationale remains true: there is still always room for ice cream.
But wherever did the love of this creamy, delicious treat come from?
The History of Ice Cream in America
When did Americans adapt the techniques to turn dairy, sugar, salt, and flavoring into the perfect accompaniment to apple pie, or served alone as a savored relief from hot summer days? How did Americans enjoy ice cream in a freezer-less era?
And more importantly, what are the new vehicles to consume this melty refreshment that modern-day culinary masters have invented (for instance, ice cream filled doughnuts)?
Here’s some cold, hard facts about America’s favorite frozen dairy treat.
1. Ice Cream Came to America in 1744
According to the International Dairy Foods Association, it’s believed that the first official documentation of ice cream in America came from a letter written in 1744, and the first advertisement appeared in 1777.
2. Presidents Like Ice Cream, Too!
Records show that in 1790, President George Washington spent around $200 on ice cream throughout the summer.
That may sound like a reasonable spend today but, using an inflation calculator, that translates to about $5,420.85 in 2017!
Washington wasn’t the only one to enjoy creamed ice either. President Thomas Jefferson favored an 18-step recipe that resembles a modern-day Baked Alaska, and during President James Madison’s second inaugural party in 1813, Dolley Madison served on a platter a “large, shining dome of pink ice cream”.
3. New York Beat Everyone to the Punch
And by punch I mean ice cream. The first ice cream parlor in America opened in New York in 1790.
4. Oyster Ice Cream Was A Thing
Alongside chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, the late 1700s also yielded flavors such as asparagus, parmesan, and oyster ice cream. Not exactly the sweet confection modern Americans have come to love, but maybe there’s something to be said about the combination of sweet and briny?
5. Jacob Fussell - The Father of the Wholesale Ice Cream Industry
Mass-producing and manufacturing of ice cream came in 1851 when a milk dealer named Jacob Fussell contracted a local miller, Daniel Henry, to construct an ice-house in Seven Valleys, Pennsylvania. The business was later moved to Baltimore, Maryland.
6. Sundaes (Probably) Came From Sunday
There are a lot of varying origin stories of the Ice Cream Sundae. Some point to locals from Two Rivers, Wisconsin, while others say the syrupy, cherry adorned concoction came from Ithaca, New York. Either way, it’s thought that the name “sundae” came as a way of removing any connection with Sabbath Sundays.
7. America’s Been Innovating Ice Cream Since 1874
The invention of ice cream sodas resulted in the first American soda fountain shop in 1874. As such, the term “soda jerk” was born. Since then, there have been numerous ways to enjoy ice cream.
- Atop fruit pies
- Betwixt chocolate chip cookies
- In the form of a layered cake
- Hidden inside a delicious donut
- Flattened and rolled
- Served with a whirl of cotton candy
- Wrapped around bubble waffle cones
The list goes on. You can even really get “ice-cream-wasted” now with the arrival of “Ice Cream Barlours,” such as the Tipsy Scoop in New York, which makes frozen ice cream with up to 5% ABV (uh, YES PLEASE!).
8. “Cookie Dough, Please?” - Anon
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough was first created in 1984 by Ben and Jerry’s Scoop Shop in Burlington, Vermont, when an anon suggested the flavor idea on a bulletin board.
Due to the flavors huge success in stores, Ben and Jerry’s teamed up with Rhino Foods to create a pint-sized version. It released in 1991, taking about 6 years to develop the perfect blend of chemistry and delectable flavor.
Bonus Fact: National Ice Cream Day is Sunday, July 16th!
July was officially declared National Ice Cream Month on July 9th, 1984 by President Ronald Reagan. In the Proclamation, he writes:
Over eight hundred and eighty-seven million gallons of ice cream were consumed in the United States in 1983. The ice cream industry generates approximately $3.5 billion in annual sales and provides jobs for thousands of citizens. Indeed, nearly ten percent of all the milk produced by the United States dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, thereby contributing substantially to the economic well-being of the Nation's dairy industry.
The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 298, has designated July 1984 as "National Ice Cream Month," and July 15, 1984, as "National Ice Cream Day," and authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in observance of these events.
Now, Therefore, I, Ronald Reagan, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim July 1984 as National Ice Cream Month and July 15, 1984, as National Ice Cream Day, and I call upon the people of the United States to observe these events with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
And we sure haven’t let Reagan down with our ceremonies and love of ice cream!
To celebrate the holiday, restaurants nationwide are releasing new, seasonal flavors, offering discounts to patrons, promoting giveaways, and donating proceeds to charities.
- Shops like Portland-based Salt and Straw will celebrate the day by giving out T-shirts, ice cream scoopers, and free shipments of ice cream.
- Poke Me in California is offering guests a free ice cream macaroon in honor of the holiday.
- Atlanta-based chain Carvel will provide BOGO cups and cones with partial proceeds donated to the Save The Whales organization.
- Ice and Vice will set up a new kiosk in Times Square, New York, where 5% of their proceeds on this day will go to select charities.
Photo: Terry Park, Instagram: trollitrain
My 8-year-old self would agree that you shouldn’t really need a reason to top a day off with ice cream, but since July 16th’s a National Holiday and Ronald Reagan mandated it (once upon a time), I guess I know what I’ll be celebrating! I hope everyone enjoys National Ice Cream Day, and share with us your favorite ice cream flavor, or your favorite dessert served with ice cream, in the comments below!
Want tips for how to run a kick-ass promotion for National Ice Cream Day in your restaurant?
Download the Restaurant Holiday Handbook below!