Ask anyone waving around a Drumstick cone or Klondike Bar where ice cream comes from, and you’re lucky if you get a smart-aleck response like “the freezer”. Ice cream may be near-universally loved (there’s an ice cream truck going down my block as we speak, and it’s not being shy about it), ice cream has an oddly shrouded history. Admittedly, most consumers of ice cream wouldn’t care if the first ice cream cone sprang, fully formed, from the forehead of Zeus, but for those who are actually curious about where their double-dip hot fudge sundaes originated – and who don’t want to read a tome the size of a cinderblock – there’s Ivan Day’s slender Ice Cream.
Decidedly England-centric in nature, Ice Cream is nevertheless an excellent short history of ice cream’s rise to popularity. Starting with the early ice creams and the, shall we say, unique flavors enjoyed in the Georgian period, Ice Cream lays out the steps by which ice cream evolved into its current form.
The book is lavishly illustrated, which is a good thing. Seeing ancient ice cream recipes in their original form is one thing, seeing various models of ice cream makers through the centuries is entirely another, as is seeing some of the insanely rococo creations of 19th century ice cream makers. If you ever wanted to know what a ice cream sculpture made in the shape of a ham might look like, this is the book for you.
But Ice Cream is a short book, clocking in at under 70 pages, and so there’s no time to linger on the fruit baskets and pedestals constructed out of ice cream, nor on the favored Victorian flavors–which probably wouldn’t find much traction these days. Pressing ever onward, Day charts the transformation of ice cream into a treat for the masses, the rise of the ice cream cart (and its more mobile and motorized descendants), and ultimately the industrialization of ice cream manufacture with a sure hand.
Fans of Baskin-Robbins and Ben and Jerry’s may not be entirely taken with the book’s near-exclusive focus on British ice cream. For those who want to know more about the history of ice cream than when their local Dairy Queen opened, however, Day’s book is an excellent starting point. Quick, informative, and clearly written, it should satisfy anyone with an interest in learning more about the topic.
(Shire Publications, 2011)