A taste of ice cream: from ancient civilisations to modern times

The word “ice cream” evokes many images of the fluffy, velvety, refreshing, multi-coloured dessert, but what are the origins of this extraordinary invention that is enjoyed all over the world?

The origins of ice cream are quite uncertain, and there are various interesting sources to explore before forming a vague idea of the exact source.

According to some ice cream-like foods originated in Persia as far back as 550 BCE. For others, Roman Emperor Nero invented the first sorbet drink, mixing ice collected from the Apennine mountains with honey and wine.

Prior to that, snow was used to cool drinks in Greece around 500 BC and Hippocrates is known to have criticised chilled drinks for causing "fluxes of the stomach". Seneca condemned the lavish expenses related to the production of iced desserts in an era where refrigeration was a fantasy.

Hints of iced drinks can also be found in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs showing ice mixed with fruit juice.

In 200 B.C. in China, some kind of icy dessert was created to what resembles a sherbet today. It was a mixture of milk and rice packed into snow. It was born to satisfy noble palates, but with the passing of centuries, it became a street food enjoyed by all.

But how did this heavenly smooth, tasty dessert reach Europe?

The Italian duchess Catherine de' Medici is said to have introduced flavoured sorbet ices to France when she married the Duke of Orléans (Henry II of France) in 1533. One hundred years later, Charles I of England was so astonished by the "frozen snow" that he proposed a lifetime allowance to his own ice cream maker so that ice cream could be a privilege of royalty.

You can read the rest of this article in our March issue...