History of Ice Cream

Did you know ice cream has been around for over two thousand years? Around 200 BC, the ancient Chinese invented a food that was the predecessor to ice cream. It involved mixing milk and rice, and then packing it down into snow until it hardened. Some 800-900 years later, the Chinese refined the recipe by using a mixture of buffalo milk, flour, and camphor. Roman emperors also apparently ate flavored snow as a delicacy.

Historians aren’t sure, but they think Marco Polo is the one who introduced ice cream to Europe. It’s suspected that he saw ice cream being made while he was in China and that he then brought it back to Italy when he returned home. If that’s true, Italian gelato may be the closest modern descendant of the ancient Chinese ice cream!

By the 1600s, English royalty had gotten in on the game, too. There are rumors that King Charles I paid his chef 500 pounds each year to maintain the secrecy of his delicious ice cream recipe.

That ice cream sundae you love? It’s from a town in Iowa where, during the late 19th century, it became illegal to sell ice cream sodas on Sundays. Some ice cream vendors simply scooped the ice cream anyway, added syrup instead of soda, and gave it a new name.

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Nowadays, you can get ice cream in just about every form and flavor imaginable. There are sherbets, sorbets, gelatos, and versions made with non-dairy milk like coconut or almond milk. There are ice creams with vitamins added, protein swirls, coffee and caramel and chocolate and chunks of nuts. If it’s a flavor you like, you can guarantee somebody has made it.

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