It's that ice cream time again. But it's been ice cream time for a long, long time. History tells us that ice creams and ice delicacies were once the extravagances of kings and nobles. The ancient Egyptians, Etruscans, Jews, Chinese and Moghuls relished iced delicacies and drinks and spent a huge fortune and much labour on bringing ice to cool them. Solomon loved to mix his drinks with ice and Alexander enjoyed iced wines. Nero sent his minions to the mountains to fetch ice to freeze his salads. The Moghul king, Jahangir, got his ice from- the Himalaya to cool his sherbets and Marco Polo was the one who made the first water ices.
The Greeks and Romans preserved snow by tightly packing it in underground cellars. Nero established a chain of ice houses to supply ice to him and his nobles. And so developed a trade; to bring snow from distant mountain-caps and store them in cellars.
In America, they tell an amusing story about how the iced dessert craze started. Polly Madison, wife of the fourth President of the United States of America, once arranged a grand party for V.I.P. guests. Naturally, she wanted the party to be different as well as successful. But when dessert was served after dinner, one of the lady guests suddenly dropped the custard tart she had been tasting and shrieked that she had been poisoned. Amidst the uproar, she was made to rest on a sofa and a doctor was sent for. Meanwhile the guests demanded that the cook who made the dessert be arrested. And so the unhappy and dazed Negro cook was taken into police custody. But when the doctor arrived and examined the patient, he found that there was no evidence of poisoning at all; the guest was, in fact, perfectly normal.
As the stir cooled down, Mrs. Madison decided to taste the alleged poisonous dish herself. She nibbled a spoonful and first, and found to her surprise that dessert was delicious. So she helped herself the whole lot. On enquiry it turned out that the cook had inadvertently placed the tarts in the ice box and the chilled tart had taken the guest by surprise. Mrs. Madison, however, thought chilled tart were the best dessert yet. The cook was reinstalled the same night with an increase in pay and a shower of praises.
In a few months, every embassy in @the U.S. ' was serving iced desserts and icecreams for its parties. On these beginnings a vast industry burgeoned and flourishes, more so in the USA than anywhere else.
In England, Dr. Plasusvilla Franca, an eminent physician who had many aristocrats of Rome as his patients, was the first man to refrigerate his wines in an icebox. When he served his friends chilled wine they were delighted and this taste for cool liquor spread swiftly.
Ice cream as such came into being in England during the reign of Charles 1. In 1640, a Gerald Tessain approached the king with a huge bowl of icecream in three layers of different colours and requested the king to taste and testify to it. The king was dubious, but the colour and the flavour of the frozen dessert attracted him so much that he tried one spoonful first; soon, he finished the lot.
While Tessain was establishing himself as an ice delicacy expert, the Puritans arrived on the scene and Tessain left England for France. There he sold the secret of his concoction to a Neapolitan cafe and desserts and wines. 'Procope Paris became famous for its chilled Conteaux' and 'The Florentine' came into being and their chilled products were the talk of the world.
In India, ice creams became famous at the end of the 18th Century and became a regular dessert by the end of the Century.
Ice cream was made in homes from pure buffalo milk and by the turn of the 18th Century, an ice cream machine had been developed for home use. It comprised a wooden bucket with a central metal (aluminium) jar and a chumer and handle. As children our job was to turn the handle fifty or sixty times, each child taking turns. The milk, essence and sugar were placed in the jar and the ice and a little salt in the bucket. After the churning went on for about 45 minutes, the ice cream would be ready in the jar. It would be of a light rose shade and have a beautiful aroma. Though not so smooth as what we get today, it was delicious, as I remember it.
Today the story is different. We have numerous mega companies manufacturing ice creams in an _astonishing variety of flavours, colours and shapes. Arun's delightful cassattas and delicious bombies are popular with adults and children alike. Wall's offers us a huge list of ice creams from simple vanilla to Peach Melba. There's Kwality, Vadilal's, Baskin Robbins, Dasprakash, Chitchat and many others to help refresh us with their delicious products. There is certainly no need to 'scream' for ice cream today.