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Desserts | Ice Cream and ...

Commercial delivery

Thanks to mass production, ice cream is widely available in most parts of the world. Ice cream can be purchased in large tubs and squrounds from supermarkets/grocery stores, in smaller quantities from ice cream shops, convenience stores, and milk bars, and in individual servings from small carts or vans at public events. 

Some ice cream distributors sell ice cream products door-to-door from traveling refrigerated vans or carts, often equipped with speakers playing a children's music tune. On the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, ice cream is sometimes sold to beachgoers from small powerboats equipped with chest freezers.

Precursors of ice cream

People living in sufficiently cold climates have probably always taken advantage of snow and ice by flavoring them with fruit and honey. The ancients had saved ice for cold foods for thousands of years. Mesopotamia has the earliest icehouses in existence, 4,000 years old, beside the Euphrates River, where the wealthy stored items to keep them cold. 

The pharaohs of Egypt had ice shipped to them. In the 5th century BC, ancient Greeks sold snow cones mixed with honey and fruit in the markets of Athens. Roman emperor Nero (37-68) had ice brought from the mountains and combined with fruit toppings. Today's ice treats likely originated with these early ice delicacies.

Modern ice cream

In the 18th century cream, milk, and egg yolks began to feature in the recipes of previously dairy-free flavored ices, resulting in ice cream in the modern sense of the word. The 1751 edition of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy by Hanna Glasse features a recipe for raspberry cream ice. 1768 saw the publication of L'Art de Bien Faire les Glaces d'Office by M. Emy, a cookbook devoted entirely to recipes for flavored ices and ice cream.

Ice cream was introduced to the United States by colonists who brought their ice cream recipes with them. Confectioners, many of whom were Frenchmen, sold ice cream at their shops in New York and other cities during the colonial era. Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson were known to have regularly eaten and served ice cream. Dolley Madison is also closely associated with the early history of ice cream in the United States.

After the 1830s when ice-making machines became available, ice cream gradually became more widely available. In 1843, Nancy Johnson invented the first small-scale hand-cranked ice cream freezer. This was followed by the invention of the ice cream soda, probably invented by Robert Green in 1874, although there is no conclusive evidence to prove his claim.

The ice cream sundae originated in the late 19th century. Several men claimed to have created the first sundae, but there is no credible evidence to back up any of their stories. Some versions say that the sundae was invented to circumvent blue laws, which forbade serving sodas on Sunday. Both the ice cream cone and banana split became popular in the first years of the 20th century.

The history of ice cream in the 20th century is one of great change, and increases in availability and popularity. In the United States in the early 20th century, the ice cream soda was a popular treat at the soda shop, the soda fountain, and the ice cream parlor. During the American Prohibition era the soda fountain to some extent replace the now illegal alcohol establishments, including bars and saloons.

Ice cream became popular throughout the world in the second half of the 20th century after cheap refrigeration became common, and wages became high enough in developed countries to indulge in such minor luxuries. There was an explosion of ice cream stores and of flavors and types. Vendors often competed on the basis of variety. Howard Johnson's restaurants advertised "a world of 28 flavors." Baskin-Robbins made its 31 flavors ("one for every day of the month") the cornerstone of its marketing strategy. The company now boasts that it has developed over 1000 varieties.

One important development in the 20th century was the introduction of soft ice cream. A chemical research team in Britain (of which a young Margaret Thatcher was a member) discovered a method of doubling the amount of air in ice cream, which allowed manufacturers to use less of the actual ingredients, thereby reducing costs. This ice cream was also very popular amongst consumers who preferred the lighter texture, and most major ice cream brands now use this manufacturing process. It also made possible the soft ice cream machine in which a cone is filled beneath a spigot on order.

The 1980s saw a return of the older, thicker, ice creams being sold as "premium" varieties. Ben and Jerry's, Beechdean, and Haagen-Dazs fall into this category.

Other frozen desserts

Snow cones, made from balls of crushed ice topped with sweet syrup served in a paper cone, are consumed in many parts of the world. The most common places to find snow cones in the United States are at amusement parks.

A popular springtime treat in maple-growing areas is maple toffee, where boiled maple syrup is poured over fresh snow congealing in a toffee-like mass, and then eaten from a wooden stick used to pick it up from the snow.

Ice creams and sorbets are frozen while being stirred or agitated, resulting in a light texture. Ice pops are quiescently frozen - frozen at rest without stirring.



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