History of Ice Cream
The history of ice cream is one consisting of legend, myth, and handed-down stories based on some fact, some fiction, and a lot of debate. Many historians believe that ice cream dates back to thousands of centuries B.C. in ancient China, when snow was the major factor in freezing creams.
Over the years, ice cream made its way to Europe; Marco Polo (1254–1324) is usually credited with bringing the concept to Italy after his travels to the Orient. From there, ice cream spread north into France (Catherine de Medici is often cited as the person behind the spread from Italy to France), to Britain, and finally, to the United States.
Before modern refrigeration, ice cream and frozen desserts were a treat only for the wealthy, as ice was a true luxury item. Not until the late-nineteenth century did ice cream become a widely consumed confection in the United States, when more modern technologies made it possible to keep foods frozen at cheaper prices. Before this, ice creams were often served as elegant and exciting desserts at presidential dinners and high-society soirees in specialty glasses or carved and/or piped into fanciful shapes.
Since then, ice cream has transformed into the treat we know and love today, served in scoops alongside birthday cakes, atop giant cones, or in parfait glasses with chocolate and bananas. Culinary visionaries have transformed basic vanilla scoops into ganache-covered bombes and meringue-topped Baked Alaska, while clever moms have filled drinking cups with juice and created frozen pops. No matter the history, no matter the level of sophistication, one thing is for sure: Frozen desserts are here to stay.