By Mike Bryans, SRA Volunteer
The sun looms high in the sky.
Its rays swim down through the cloudless azure blue sky to transform pasty, pale skin into a golden beachcomber glow worthy of Vogue. Liquid drips of vanilla escape the icy prison of the ninety-nine. They crawl down the tightly clenched cone to seek sticky solace on the fingertips of the promenade walker. It is summertime and what does summertime mean??Ice cream. A sweet treat to quell the heat. Now, although ice cream isn’t necessarily a seasonal dessert, many a time I’ve stood in line at an ice cream van in the torrential rain in February just to get ice-cold sugar fix, it is in summer where our frozen friend is a highly required member of the team. In 1984, by Ronald Regan’s presidential decree, the month of July became National Ice Cream Month, so with that in mind let’s celebrate our sub-zero summer hero Ice Cream.
It appears that many different cultures have their own Ice cream origins. In 200 BC, the Chinese would create a frozen mixture of milk and rice by pouring snow and salt over the exterior of a container. In the Middle East, frozen sugared-milk flavoured with rose water or dried fruit and nuts was eaten as a sweet treat. In the Persian Empire, people would create a dessert by pouring grape-juice concentrate over collected snow. Although rudimentary, we now know who to thank in the creation of the Slush-Puppy. Perhaps the next time you are at the concessions stand at the cinema try ordering a Persian Favoured Snow Treat and try paying with the antiquated Persian currency of Golden Darics, I bet the vendor would love it.
In Europe though, legend has it that Charles I was so impressed when he first sampled “frozen snow” that he offered his own ice cream maker a lifetime pension if he were to keep the formula secret and therefore ice cream would’ve remained a royal prerogative. Thank the lord that never happened. Imagine ice cream remaining a royal secret, behind closed castle doors the royal family snacking away on Viennettas, Twisters, and Funny Feet, whilst we lowly subjects sweat away in the burning midday sun totally unaware of the icy relief that could be enjoyed. Luckily that never came to pass, however we cannot be too certain that there isn’t a secret royal ice cream recipe hidden away in the basement of Buckingham Palace. Just imagine what that might include: Edible gold leaf? Prince Charles’ organic custard? Actual hundreds and thousands?…Much like the dessert itself, Ice cream has had a rich and flavoured history.
In recent times it has become a canvas for confectionary companies to test the boundaries of what is possible and/or acceptable. Whether it is the advertising team for Magnum attempting to usurp the Cadbury Flake for the most sexualised confectionary on the market or Ben and Jerry and their two man mission to create the most ludicrous ice cream flavours that would make Willy Wonka say “Come on lads, chill out”. As we have seen, ice cream is a great cultural and generational leveller. From all walks of life and at any age, we all love to welcome the summer either clenching a cone or cradling a tub of the snowy arctic nectar of the gods, ice-cream.