Americans do love their ice cream.
In fact, in 1984, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed July as National Ice Cream Month, and named the third Sunday in July — this past Sunday — as National Ice Cream Day.
It turns out that the United States is the No. 1 producer and consumer of ice cream in the world
One survey says that 41% of Americans consider ice cream to be their favorite dessert, and it identified the best-loved flavors as chocolate, vanilla, cookies and cream, and mint chocolate chip.
The origins of ice cream are not clear. Some sources trace a variation of it back to ancient China around 200 B.C., where a milk and rice mixture was kept frozen by packing it in the snow.
The Italian Explorer Marco Polo is said to have seen this during a trip to China and brought it back home in the 13th century, where it was enjoyed by the European elites and eventually made its way to North America.
While ice cream may have been created overseas, the ice cream sundae was born in the U.S.A., although exactly where it began remains in dispute.
The cities of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and Ithaca, New York, have been battling for more than a century over bragging rights as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae.
Two Rivers claims it created the ice cream sundae in 1881; Ithaca claims it came up with the idea in 1892, according to Farmers Almanac.
While that battle rages on, there’s plenty of consensus on how the ice cream sundae got its name, and how it came about.
The ice cream sundae was the result of Blue Laws, which were religious laws enacted to restrict activities considered sinful.
Ice cream soda shops began emerging at pharmacy counters in the 1870s, but soon after, one Blue Law placed restricting the sale of soda on Sundays because it seemed too close to alcohol, which also was banned for Sunday consumption.
Ice cream sodas were very popular — pharmacies sold soda since the caffeine (among other things in soda) was considered medicinal back then.
Both cities claim that someone wanted an ice cream soda on a Sunday (pharmacies were essential and open on Sundays).
Not wanting to violate the Blue Laws, but also not wanting to serve just plain scoops of ice cream, the druggist (now called pharmacist) switched out the soda and put flavored sauce on top instead (Two Rivers said it was chocolate sauce, Ithaca said it was cherry sauce).
The popularity spread quickly.
Initially, it was known as the “Ice Cream Sunday.”
The origins of the spelling change to “sundae” are not quite known, but many believe it was either to not offend those who were religious or to make it clear that the treat could be enjoyed any day of the week and not just on Sundays.
Whatever the reasoning behind the change, it stuck.
Other things, however, have changed.
Ice cream is now widely available in grocery stores, and just the idea of ice cream being sold at the pharmacy counter seems outlandish.
Although many ice cream parlors have closed over time, specialty ice cream shops remain popular.
Ice cream also comes in dozens of flavors these days, including coffee, peanut butter, and birthday cake, to name just a few. It also can be made dairy-free.
And, because it’s National Ice Cream month, you may be able to take advantage of some special prices or freebies at ice cream shops through the end of July.
You can even try your hand at making a batch, and you don’t even need fancy equipment. (Check out the recipe).
Whether you make your own ice cream, or pick some up at a shop or a store — just remember to have fun, and stay cool.
By Shari Bresin
Shari Bresin is the Family & Consumer Science agent for the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Cooperative Extension Pasco County.
This recipe comes from delish.com; it uses plastic bags to make vanilla ice cream.
Ice cream in a bag
1 cup half-and-half
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups ice
1/3 cup kosher salt
Toppings of your choice
In a small resealable plastic bag, combine half-and-half, sugar and vanilla. Push out excess air and seal.
Into a large resealable plastic bag, combine ice and salt. Place contents of small bag inside the bigger bag and shake vigorously, 7 minutes to 10 minutes, until ice cream has hardened.
Note: Oven mittens or a dish towel will help to handle the cold bags.
Remove from bag and enjoy with your favorite ice cream toppings.
Published July 22, 2020