Keeping Your Cool . . . with Ice Cream
- Thursday, August 18, 2011
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the latest installment of The Single Life, a monthly column written specifically for singles.
I don’t know what the current temperature is in your part of the world, but in my little corner of heaven it feels a whole lot like that other eternal destination. It’s so hot that—no lie—a coworker baked two batches of cookies by parking in a sunny spot and placing a pan of chocolate chip dough in the car window. (It was about 107 outside that day; each batch took about three hours to cook through. They were delicious.)
In other words, it’s August. So what better time to stop and celebrate something that helps keep us cool(er) and—in my case, at least—happier. My friends, I’m talking about ice cream.
To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin, “Ice cream is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” I believe Ben was actually referring to beer, but that was probably only because a certain little creamery in Brenham, Texas wasn’t around yet. Ice cream was, though. In fact, by the time the boys in Boston dumped all that tea in the harbor, ice cream had already been around for centuries.
Historians disagree on whether the frosty treat first appeared in China or Italy, but the origins of ice cream date at least as far back as the fourth century AD. The Roman Emperor Nero liked to send slaves to the mountains to fetch ice to be combined with fruit toppings. (Apparently all that fiddling was hot, hungry work.) That was probably more of a sorbet (a fancy name for “sherbet”) than an “iced cream,” but you’ve got to start somewhere.
Originally “iced cream” was so called because that’s exactly what it was—sweetened cream chilled in a bowl of ice. Then somebody decided to try stirring it occasionally, which broke up the ice crystals and made the whole thing creamier. The term "ice cream" shows up in 1744, in plenty of time for Dr. Franklin to have tried it.
He may well have, too; Americans began their love affair with ice cream early on. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson served it to their guests. Dolly Madison reportedly served it at the White House in 1812. Then in 1846, one Nancy Johnson (bless her) patented a hand-cranked freezer much like the basic models still used today. A few years later, Jacob Fussell of Baltimore established the first large-scale commercial ice cream plant and brought cold, creamy goodness to the masses.
In an odd twist of fate, Ben Franklin pops up again—his name, at least—in 1874, at a soda fountain booth at the Franklin Institute’s sesquicentennial celebration in Philadelphia. According to gastronomic legend, vendor Robert M. Green ran out of the cream he normally put in his soda concoctions and substituted ice cream instead. He was probably hoping nobody would notice the switch . . . but they did. According to one source, Green’s profits immediately shot up from six dollars a day to six Benjamins. Naturally, other vendors took note of the 100 percent profit increase and promptly followed suit. Soon ice cream sodas were all the rage.
This did not go over well with some parents. At the time “sodas” (Coca-Cola, for one) were sold as patent medicines rather than tasty beverages. Soda was, believe it or not, a controlled substance, strictly regulated by law and (in some places) illegal to buy on a Sunday. This, of course, led to an ice cream treat topped with flavored syrup—but no soda—called a “sundae” that could legally be enjoyed after church.
You’ve probably heard of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, which introduced us to the hamburger, hot dog, puffed rice, Dr. Pepper, cotton candy—it was a foodie’s paradise, that fair—and, legend has it, the ice cream cone. When an ice cream vendor ran out of cups, a neighbor rolled his hot waffles into cone shapes, the first guy stuffed the waffle with ice cream, and the angels sang. So the story goes, anyway, and who am I to argue? However it happened, it was a blessed event in my book.
In more recent history, do you remember when Cookies ‘n’ Cream appeared on the scene? Its origins are shrouded in controversy, but regardless of who first conceived of smushing Oreos into ice cream, once the flavor landed on grocery freezer shelves it promptly became the fastest growing flavor of all time, zooming to number five on the flavor charts in 1983.
Hungry yet? This may give you pause: The Food Network’s Kitchen Stadium, home of Iron Chef America, boasts industrial ice cream makers which occasionally tempt competing chefs to try flavor combinations that are . . . unfortunate. While I think it would be grand fun to be a tasting judge on that show, I’m eternally grateful I did not have to try the trout ice cream. The “I’m about to puke on national TV” look on one judge’s face said it all.
Iron Chef or not, whether you own an ice cream maker or not, you can make your own ice cream. I don’t recommend trout, but how about a lovely raspberry? Fruity and refreshing, the following recipe contains only five ingredients and requires no special equipment. It comes courtesy of Princess Diana’s former personal chef and makes “an intensely flavored” ice cream which Chef Darren says “is delicious on its own and even better when spooned into brandy snap cornets and topped with a dollop of clotted cream.” “Clotted cream” is . . . well, that’s a story for another day. Just trust me that it tastes infinitely better than it sounds.
So take that, August! As long as I can cool off with the occasional scoop, I’ll survive until September. Besides, the next batch of car cookies will be even better served with a big bowl of Vanilla Bean . . . or Moose Tracks . . . or maybe . . .
Raspberry Ice Cream
4 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
½ cup milk
2 lemons, juiced
1. Puree the raspberries in a blender and pour into a large bowl. Add the sugar, cream, milk, and lemon juice, and whisk together. Strain the mix through a fine sieve to remove the seeds.
2. Pour into an ice cream maker to freeze, following manufacturer’s instructions. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, you can still make this dish. Instead of pouring the cream into the raspberry puree, whip it until stiff instead and fold it into the mix. Freeze in a plastic container for about three hours, remove from the freezer, and stir. Repeat this process several times, and then freeze until firm.
*Recipe courtesy of Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen by Darren McGrady (Thomas Nelson).
Susan Ellingburg is a natural-born Texan who sings at every opportunity, reads as much as possible, and cherishes every day she gets to spend with friends. She's a serious foodie and not-so-serious gardener who is determined not to let being single stand in the way of living an amazing life. Read Susan's blog at TastingGod.wordpress.com.
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