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Eat Ice Cream and Celebrate!

Finally, it’s July.  All year long, I have waited for July so I can eat ice cream and celebrate for 31 days!

            July is National Ice Cream Month as declared by President Reagan in 1984, and he designated the third Sunday (July 18th this year) as National Ice Cream Day.  Because 90% of the people living in the United States eat ice cream, he thought it worthy of being commemorated. 

            We Americans eat 1.6 billion gallons of ice cream each year. That averages 23 pounds per person, and ice cream is among our top ten favorite desserts, ranking number five.  It’s our default desserts, our late-night snacks, our celebration treats.  A bowl of ice cream, topped with caramel and chocolate syrups or sprinkles, is our Grands’ special treat.

            No one knows the exact birthplace of ice cream, but it’s origin could be A. D. 60 when Nero was the Emperor of Rome.  There’s evidence that ice and snow were sweetened with honey and flavored with fruit juices.  By the 1500s, cream was added, and in the 1700s, “cream ice” was sold in European cafes.

            The first written record of ice cream in the U. S. is in a letter written in 1744 by Maryland Governor William Bladen.  In 1790, our first president, George Washington, spent about $200 for ice cream- that’s about $6000 today.  In those days, ice cream was only for the rich.

            By the mid-1800s, ice cream became more available.  In 1843, Nancy Johnson patented the hand crank ice cream maker, and Jacob Fussel began the first ice cream factory in 1851.  Shouldn’t national holidays honor Johnson and Fussel?  Can you imagine celebrating birthdays without ice cream or never knowing the joy of licking an ice cream cone?

            Home refrigerators with small freezers, common in homes by the late 1940s, made it possible to keep ice cream, but in the 1950s, ice cream was only for very special occasions at our house.  Did anyone else’s Mom buy ice milk?  Frozen low-fat milk with added sugar and cheaper than ice cream.  If you haven’t eaten it, be glad. 

            Sometimes, Mom made ice cream.  She skimmed thick cream from the top of cold milk, that Dad had brought from the barn in a milk bucket the day before, and mixed it with sugar, vanilla flavoring, and egg yolks.  She heated it and then poured the mixture into metal ice cube trays, without the dividers, and froze it in our refrigerator’s small freezer compartment, only big enough for four small ice trays. 

            Mom’s homemade ice cream was richer and far better than ice milk, but it didn’t have a smooth texture.  When we got a hand-crank ice cream maker, it turned all those same ingredients Mom poured into ice cube trays into delicious ice cream.  We always made ice cream for our backyard July 4th hamburger cookout so, I agree, July should be National Ice Cream Month.             What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?  How many flavors are available? That’s next week’s column.

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