How capitalism (read entrepreneurship) brought ice cream to the masses

Fascinating piece on how ice-cream moved from being a dish of aristocracy to being a dish of masses.

Britain’s blistering heat wave has created a record-breaking demand for the treat that, over the course of the last century, has become a summer favorite the world over: ice cream. Sales have increased 100 percent year on year, and London is even hosting an ice-cream themed pop-up exhibition, fittingly titled ‘Scoop’.

Just 350 years ago, ice cream was a rare delicacy, reserved for kings and the richest of aristocrats. To enjoy it a person had to be able to afford refrigeration, which in the pre-industrial world was arduous and expensive.

But thanks to technological and scientific progress, ice cream has become available to pretty much everyone.

Back then, to refrigerate foodstuffs, people needed the land to build an ice house (to store the ice), freshwater access, and servants to cut and hull the ice. The ice would have to be regularly restocked and was available only in some climates at sometimes. But thanks to technological and scientific progress, ice cream has become available to pretty much everyone.

It discusses key innovations such as cone, the hand cracked machine, cheap refrigeration, different flavors and so on. I mean so many things we take for granted today came about in interesting ways.

For instance cone:

Italian immigrants who came to the United Kingdom to escape the Napoleonic Wars and poor economic conditions created The Penny Lick. Street vendors would sell a small glass of ice cream for a penny to crowds of joyous customers. This light-hearted contraption ended up having deadly consequences.

Luckily, necessity is the mother of invention and concerns over hygiene meant when the ice cream cone was first created in New York in 1896.

The Penny Lick was banned in 1898 after it was directly linked with an outbreak of tuberculosis. TB is spread by the coughing, sneezing or spitting, so it’s not surprising a glass cleaned with a dirty rag and then reused would be infested with germs. Luckily, necessity is the mother of invention and concerns over hygiene meant when the ice cream cone was first created in New York in 1896 (or St. Louis in 1904—we are not quite sure) it quickly displaced the glass Penny Lick.

Amazing to know this…

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