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Let Them Eat Ice Cream!

To those of us of a certain age, the melodic chimes signaling an ice cream truck was rounding the corner is one of our earliest, fondest Pavlovian memories. And 31 flavors from Baskin-Robbins. If you grew up in this area, it was Gifford’s you went for special occasions.

Thank President Ronald Reagan for designating the third Sunday of July as National Ice Cream Day and July as National Ice Cream Month.

 David Levinson in Kentlands, Maryland,
David Levinson in Kentlands, Maryland,

Insomnia Cookies at 3204 O Street in Georgetown is celebrating with a free scoop of ice cream with any purchase, in-store only all day, July 21st.

Ever wonder when and where it all started?

Ancient Persia and China had it.

In the 5th century BC, ancient Greeks ate snow mixed with honey and fruit in the markets of Athens. Hippocrates encouraged his patients to eat ice "as it livens the life-juices and increases the well-being.”

During the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar (A.D. 54-86) frequently sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was then flavored with fruits and juices.

A thousand years later, Marco Polo returned to Italy from the Far East with a sherbet-like recipe.

France was introduced to frozen desserts in 1553 by the Italian Catherine de Medici when she became the wife of Henry II of France.

In 1660 ice cream was made available to the general public. The Sicilian Procopio introduced a recipe blending milk, cream, butter and eggs at Café Procope, the first café in Paris.

Library of Congress
Library of Congress

The first official account of ice cream in the New World comes from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen.

The first advertisement for ice cream in the U.S. appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777, when confectioner Philip Lenzi announced that ice cream was available "almost every day."

President George Washington spent approximately $200 for ice cream during the summer of 1790. Inventory records of Mount Vernon taken after Washington's death revealed "two pewter ice cream pots."

Passionate gourmet, President Thomas Jefferson, was said to have a favorite 18-step recipe for an ice cream delicacy that resembled a modern-day Baked Alaska with his own recipe for Savoy cookies to accompany the dessert.

Until 1800, ice cream remained a rare and exotic dessert enjoyed mostly by the elite. Around 1800, insulated ice houses were invented.

Manufacturing ice cream was pioneered in 1851 by a Baltimore milk dealer named Jacob Fussell.

In 1874, the American soda fountain shop and the profession of the "soda jerk" emerged with the invention of the ice cream soda.

In response to religious criticism for eating "sinfully" rich ice cream sodas on Sundays, ice cream merchants left out the carbonated water and invented the ice cream "Sunday" in the late 1890's. The name was eventually changed to "sundae" to remove any connection with the Sabbath.

From the 1940s through the ‘70s, ice cream production was relatively constant until more prepackaged ice cream made its way into supermarkets.

Ice cream parlors and soda fountains soon started to disappear.

Georgetown recently lost Ben & Jerry’s but we’ve still got Thomas Sweet.


Scoop up!