Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Marco Polo, Hippocrates and Wolfgang Puck have all favored frozen desserts. Even Beethoven wrote a note fearing an unseasonably warm winter in 1794 would prevent Austrians from enjoying ice cream. Today, there is growing demand not only for ice cream, but also for gelato, granita, paleta, tofutti and the epsicle, which was invented in the early 20th century by a 12-year old boy, Frank Epperson, and known today as the popsicle.
Frozen treats have been popular around the world since the Chinese enjoyed them in the Tang Dynasty. Alexander the Great savored snow ice mixed with honey and nectar, Montezuma II had tropical fruits blended with snow from a volcanic Mexican mountain, Catherine de Medici supposedly popularized sorbet in France, and Dolly Madison served ice cream (with strawberries from her own garden) at White House state dinners.
Refreshing and sensual, the taste and texture of a frozen dessert adds to its appeal. I’ve eaten hazelnut gelato in Rome, red bean shaved ice in Singapore (where they also offer frozen durian desserts), and creamy tasting green tea-infused tofutti in Tokyo, where you can buy Haagen-Dazs green tea ice cream from vending machines or sample the native ice cream recipe first introduced in Yokohama in the 1850s. Most recently, I savored a prickly pear sorbet garnished with fresh kiwi, and smoothies with names like Don Juan and Mud Slide, at the relaxing health and wellness-oriented Miraval Resort in Tucson, Arizona.
While it’s likely that the Chinese were among the first to explore frozen treats— using combinations of milk from water buffalo, cow, and goat—during the Tang Dynasty, ancient Greeks, Romans, and Jews also chilled wine and juices, which evolved into variations of fruit ices. Wealthy Europeans, including Emperor Nero, were eating flavored snow with fruit, nuts, and honey way back in the first century, but ice cream didn’t reach Italy until the 13th century, and was first sold in Paris in 1670.
In some parts of Turkey, snow is mixed with molasses, while hot maple syrup drizzled on snow (“sugar on snow”) is a concoction still favored by Canadians. Today, the variety of frozen treats continues to expand with new items like the grapefruit-flavored “Florida Freezie,” Thai Twirl (a mango topped with coconut ice cream and jack fruit sauce) and Ole, a guava- and tamarind-flavored frozen yogurt.
Mexicans have paleta, which translates as “frozen treat.” These handcrafted frozen fruit bars come in over 40 flavors including tropical fruits such as mango, rambutan, watermelon/ cucumber, and lime, and are often sold from pushcarts.
Italians take the lead in creating gelato and granita (ices), sometimes with elaborate and artful displays. But Americans came up with the banana split, ice cream sundae, and the ice cream cone. Historians don’t agree on the origin of the sundae in the late 1800s. Some credit the town of Evanston, Illinois, while others maintain it began in Ithaca, New York, or Two Rivers, Wisconsin. But this American delicacy was most likely derived from the ice cream soda, a creation dating from Philadelphia circa 1874. One theory says it was a way around blue laws, prohibiting the serving of soda water on Sundays. Ice cream sodas minus the soda left the ice cream and syrup, the original recipe for the ice cream sundae. And the alternative spelling of sundae removed it from a connection with the Sabbath.
The origin of the ice cream cone is also disputed, but it, too, is thought to be an American invention, though Emperor Akbar’s royal kitchen produced cone-shaped kulfi , an ice cream with pistachio nuts and saffron, in centuries past. Then there is the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, where the story goes that a vendor ran out of dishes to serve the ice cream, and started to roll waffles as holders. But it was New Yorker Italo Marchiony, who sold cones from a pushcart in Manhattan in 1
||Miraval Resort’s Prickly Pear Sorbet With Kiwi Salsa & Lime Tequila Glaze
4 2 oz. servings Prickly Pear Sorbet
4 tbsp. Kiwi, diced
4 tsps lime tequila glaze
4 sprigs fresh mint
Place a 2 oz. scoop of sorbet in a shallow glass bowl or a martini glass. Spoon the diced kiwi over one side of the scoop. Ladle the Lime Tequila Glaze directly over the top of the sorbet, and down the sides of the sorbet. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Prickly Pear Sorbet
Serving Size 2 oz.
4 cups prickly pear puree
1 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
7 oz. lime juice
Bring water and sugar to a boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add to prickly pear puree. Add lime juice and stir well. Following ice cream or sorbet machine instructions, freeze mixture until sorbet is thick and light pink in color. Freeze until ready for use.
Lime Tequila Glaze
Makes 2 cups
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup tequila
1/2 cup lemonade
1/4 cup corn syrup
Bring all ingredients to a boil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until liquids become syrupy. Let cool and refrigerate until ready for use.