It’s National Ice Cream Month! That momentous fact might have slipped my addled mind had I not been an interloper at the Hennessy-Beech Families’ Fourth of July 2013 picnic in Lewiston, Minnesota yesterday. The legendary piece de resistance of that grand occasion is overflowing bowls of HOMEMADE ice cream topped with fresh picked strawberries. Words fail….
President Ronald Reagan, who did have his finer features, must be lauded for inaugurating National Ice Cream Month in 1984. This year the nation will celebrate National Ice Cream DAY on Sunday, July 21 – just one of the 31 days set aside for exultation of ice cream as one of the basic food groups.
As everyone knows, consuming ice cream with finesse is an art. What we may not know is that the origins of the frozen treat of the gods goes back as far as the second century B.C. Alexander the Great enjoyed snow and ice flavored with honey and nectar. And there are even Biblical referencs to King Solomon’s fondness for iced drinks during the harvest season. Nero Claudius Caesar (A.D. 54-86) sent runners into the mountains for snow which was flavored with fruits and juices fit for an Emperor.
Historians of ice cream tell us that Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East with a recipe akin to 21st Century sherbet, adding that the recipe probably evolved into ice cream sometime in the 16th Century. Charles I during the 17th Century scooped up “cream ice” and Catherine de Medici encountered the treat when she married Henry II, King of France.
The masses learned about ice cream when Sicilian Procopia introduced a recipe at Café Procope, the first café in Paris.
The first account of ice cream this side of the pond comes in a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen; sometime later the first ice cream ad appeared in the New York Gazette in 1777. The Father of Our Country George Washington spent approximately $200 of his personal fortune for ice cream during the summer of 1700 while President Jefferson was purported to have an 18-step recipe that anticipates today’s Baked Alaska. Dolly Madison, always the perfect hostess, served strawberry ice cream at her husband’s second inaugural banquet.
The fortunes of the hit a cool high in the early 1800’s with the invention of ice houses. Steam power, mechanical refrigeration, homogenization, electric power and motors, packing machines and new freezing processes created an ice cream boom – a utopian world in which production of frozen dairy items in the U.S. tops 1.6 billion gallons. The ice cream industry reports total revenues of $10 billion in 2010 with take home sales representing the largest section of the market generating revenues of $6.8 billion. Nine percent of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream.
Enough history – too many stats. Where’s the closest ice cream parlor!
Whether it’s a malt, a shake, a sundae or a delectably portable sugar cone, you want it near and you want it now! Options abound and parlors pop up in the most unlikely places. Thanks to sound research and this state’s commitment to open access to government information you can find a robust roster of ice cream parlors on the Explore Minnesota website. From Afton to Winona (alphabetically) the annotated list will inspire delectable road trips that lead to ice cream haunts best known by the locals but open to all.
Fear not – You can venture out even without a GPS system – the industry provides a handy map that guides you straight to the frozen splendors that cool these humid days and remind us all of just how great summer evenings really are!