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July Is National Ice Cream Month

(Flickr Photo by LabyrinthX)

One of the things that makes Ronald Reagan, in my opinion, one of our four greatest presidents along with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, is designating July as “National Ice Cream Month” in 1984. National Ice Cream Day will be celebrated on July 21st of this year.

At least 90 percent of American’s enjoy ice cream and the industry generated about $10 billion in 2010 with carryout sales of $6.8 billion accounting for the largest section of that market.

US Dairy farmers are big fans of ice cream and about 9 percent of all the milk produced in the US is used to produce those 31 flavors we all know and love. The average dairy cow will produce enough milk to make over 9,000 gallons of ice cream during her lifetime.

In order for it to be legally labeled “ice cream” it must have a minimum of 10% milkfat. This also applies to custard based ice creams as well. California produces the most ice cream in America and the US produces the most ice cream in the world.

How Long Has Ice Cream Been Around?

According to historians, a long time. As far back as AD 54-68, it seems when Roman Emperor Nero wasn’t fiddling, he was fond of sending slaves into the nearby mountains to bring back snow that would be mixed with nectars, various kinds of fruit pulp and honey. This is probably more myth than truth because the slaves would have to have been pretty quick for the snow not to melt before reaching the palace.

The only country on earth that takes more credit of inventing things than Russia is China. And when it comes to ice cream China is onboard. In AD 618-907, during King T’ang of Shang’s dynasty he also used slaves specifically for the creation of an ice cream like product. T’ang’s “ice men,” 94 of them to be exact, schlepped ice to the palace to be mixed with heated, fermented milk, flour and camphor. Sounds yummy.  Why 94 “ice men” instead of 100? Probably a union thing.

The 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair

Paper and metal cones had been used in Europe for many years to serve ice cream.  Although there is much dispute about who actually created the first edible, walk away, ice cream cone in the US, there is little dispute about where it happened.

Ice cream, in a cone, was first served to 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair goers by at least 50 different vendors. So it’s entirely possible that several people invented the ice cream cone at the same time. One popular story is a vendor selling ice cream set up his stand next to a vendor making waffles and they put two-and-two together and increased both their businesses.

The Cone is Key

One of the first machines in the US for making ice cream cones was from Abe Doumar, a Lebanese immigrant. He adapted a waffle iron into a cone shaped oven for baking the cones. Unfortunately for Doumar, his invention came after the 1904 world’s fair.

In 1903, Italo Marchiony, got the idea for an edible cup with handles and submitted a patent for it. Another St. Louis merchant, Charles Menches got the idea to fill pastry cones with two scoops of ice cream. Not sure if he was at the fair or not.

Some Final Thoughts

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” I can remember my parents packing us kids in the back of the old sedan and heading out to buy some ice cream. Strawberry was my flavor of choice back then. Ice cream sandwiches at the movie theatre. Ice cream and cake at every kid’s birthday party. Ice cream sodas at my uncles soda fountain.

Ice cream is as American as baseball, Mom and apple pie. In fact there aren’t too many things better in this world than a hot slice of Mom’s homemade apple pie with a nice scoop of vanilla on top. Guess I’ll be headin’ to the store soon. What’s your favorite flavor or ice cream memory?

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