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The History of Ice Cream

29 min read -

It’s cold, it’s sweet, it’s creamy, and more than 80% of Americans report loving it. But whose idea was it? How did it come to be, and how long have people been eating it? And how in the world is ice cream centuries older than freezers? We’re here to unravel some very delicious mysteries, and in the process, we’ll equip you with enough knowledge to become the historian at your next dessert get-together. 


The Very Beginnings of Ice Cream 

Before ice cream, there was another frozen dessert. Roman Emperor Nero Caesar, a tyrant who began his rule of Rome in the year 54 AD (yes, that’s right, all the way back when years were two digits), used to flavor snow with juices and fruit, making what we now know today as snow cones, Italian ice, or shaved ice. 

Outside of Rome, desserts similar to ice cream were being made as far back as humans can remember. In Ecuador there’s Helados de Paila, which is comparable to a creamy sorbet that was made in giant bronze bowls in the Ecuadorian Highlands, and in China, there’s the buffalo milk-flour-camphor combo made by 94 ice-men

 

For over a thousand years, that’s what people had for dessert. Ice cream was an innovation of the snow cone, although it’s unclear exactly how ice cream came to be. We do know that ice cream as we know it popped up sometime in the 16th century and was first served to the public in 1690 at Cafe Procope in Paris. That ice cream contained eggs, making it more of a custard. It was a hit, and it started ice cream’s reputation.


Ice Cream Reaching America

Since ice cream’s rise to commercial popularity in Europe began in the 1690s, it wasn’t until the early-mid 1700s that it made its way to America. Word was slow to travel, and so were people. It took much longer for recipes, traditions, ideas, and inventions to gain popularity across oceans. 

Philip Lenzi, an Italian confectioner who moved to New York soon after the founding of America, ran the first-ever advertisement for ice cream in the year 1777. And George Washington was super excited about that. Washington was perhaps the first ice cream addict in America, shelling out $200 on ice cream one summer. Accounting for inflation, that’s nearly $5,000 in modern money. 

By the 1780s, Thomas Jefferson had his very own ice cream recipe, calling for “2 bottles of good cream” and “yolks of eggs.” Dolley Madison, President Madison’s wife, served up strawberry ice cream at his second inauguration in 1813, and it must have been especially delicious to have made its way into recorded history. 

Finally, in 1851, early refrigeration technology made it possible to mass-produce ice cream. Jacob Fussell, a man who originally made his living selling milk in Baltimore, became the first ice cream manufacturer. Not to mention the “Queen of Ice” Agnes B. Marshall, a culinary entrepreneur who left her marks not only on ice cream, but on many frozen desserts. She published three books centered around icy desserts, and we are oh so grateful for this Queen Agnes B. 

Everyone had ice cream, and technology continued to progress to the point where other ice cream manufacturers started up their own businesses.

Ice Cream in the Now

Today’s ice cream is mostly the same as it used to be. Ice cream making machines mostly eliminated the need for eggs, as the texture developed to be thick and creamy very easily when churning became automated. However, many ice creams still incorporate eggs paying homage to the traditional western recipe.

Now, the name of the game is who can make the best ice cream. There are traditional dairy ice creams, light dairy ice creams, and non-dairy ice creams. It comes in pints, cartons, gallons, pops, cones, sandwiches, and bars. Some brands have taken out the sugar and replaced it with artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols. Others have swapped milk for coconut, nut, or soy milk.

Some have kept the original recipe, but gone wild with it. They throw in cake, brownies, cheesecake, pie pieces, chocolate, candy, pieces of cone, swirls of chocolate, and caramel. They pack their pint to the brim with inclusions, so much so that the actual ice cream is more of an afterthought. 

Everyone is trying to leave their mark on ice cream, and Snow Monkey is no different in that regard. We’re different in the way we succeeded in making a kind of ice cream that no one has ever made before. 


The History of Snow Monkey

And then came Snow Monkey. It seemed like everyone was trying to reinvent the wheel with new ice cream formulas. They wanted to adapt the dessert for vegan diets, or remove the sugar, or reduce the calories. No one was contemplating how to make an ice cream that was actually healthy. As in, ice cream that could be enjoyed as a guilt-free meal any time of the day. There had to be a demand for that! We know we wanted it! 

We’re all women here, with the exception of one boy. He’s a very good boy. Also, he’s a pup. A very handsome pup who is notoriously awful at responding to his emails. We’ve been diagnosed with numerous food allergies and intolerances, so we understand what that’s like. We’re all trying to be healthy over here, but that doesn’t mean we want to suffer. We love dessert just as much as everyone else!

The supermarket can be difficult to navigate for people with food intolerances and allergies. We decided that our ice cream wouldn’t contain any of the eight major food allergens, making it accessible to as many people as possible. No dairy, no peanuts, no tree nuts, no eggs, and no gluten. We wanted a dessert that would be allergen-friendly, vegan friendly, and paleo-friendly. 

Another part of making a dessert that everyone could enjoy was keeping the nutrition in mind.  If ice cream could be redesigned as intelligent fuel, we could eat it all the time and our bodies would thank us for it. The mission was simple: if Mother Nature didn’t make it, we weren’t going to use it. (Side note: we fully understand dairy comes from nature, as do nuts and soy and, frankly, all the other major allergens. But using those would defeat the whole “allergen-friendly” thing). 

So Rachel wrote up this recipe and gave it a shot in her university kitchen. It worked! It was great! It met all the marks. Then, the team came together to figure out how to produce it for the public at an affordable price that made it accessible to everyone - you can grab a pint for $5.99 at the grocery stores list on our store locator. We wanted to make sure our products were as sustainable and as environmentally friendly as possible. Everything had to be just right.

Was it hard? Oh, man. You have no idea how difficult it can be to turn a great idea into a highly specific business. It’s really difficult to achieve something no one has ever done before. But would we do it again? In a heartbeat! 


The Takeaway

Ice cream, or at least variations of ice cream, have been around for most of modern history in all corners of the global. Ice cream isn’t going anywhere. It’s impossible not to love, and the world will refuse to let it go. Everyone puts their spin on this classic dessert, and Snow Monkey is proud of the spin we’ve created.

We loved ice cream so much that we wanted to be able to eat it every day. In fact, we wanted everyone to be able to eat it every day. Creating an ice cream that was as nutritious as a meal was a feat that needed performing. We’ve never been afraid of a challenge, and we think we slayed it. Snow Monkey boasts over 20 grams of plant protein per pint. It comes in the classic flavors everyone knows and loves and some exciting flavors for people who are a fan of shaking things up. 

You can have ice cream for breakfast now. You’re welcome. 

 

 

 

Sources:

What's The Difference Between Ice Cream, Frozen Custard, And Gelato? | Consumer Reports 

American Treasures of the Library of Congress | Library of Congress

Birthplace of Commercial Ice Cream Production · Pennsylvania Historical Markers · The Land of Penn and Plenty: Bringing History to the Table | PA Foodways

ICE-CREAM | The origin of ice-cream - BBC 

A Brief History of Helados de Paila in Ecuador: A Tradition Frozen in Time - Metropolitan Touring 

Meet Agnes B. Marshall, the Victorian Queen of Ice Cream - Mental Floss 

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