With summer well and truly here, Julian Humphrys serves up a quick scoop of ice cream history
When did ice cream first appear on the culinary scene?
The first mentions we have of ice cream, as opposed to flavoured ice dishes such as sherbets and sorbets, date from the 17th century. At that time, it was extremely expensive. A feast held on St George’s Day at Windsor Castle in 1671 included “one plate of white strawberries and one plate of iced cream” – served to King Charles II’s table alone. In 1718, Mrs Mary Eales’s Receipts became the first printed English cookbook to include a recipe for ice cream but it would remain a costly delicacy for more than a century.
How did it become affordable?
Much of the credit has to go to Swiss émigré Carlo Gatti. In the 1850s he became Britain’s first mass manufacturer of ice cream. Using ice first cut from Regent’s Canal and later imported from Norway in the manufacturing process, Gatti set up a stand near Charing Cross where he offered scoops of ice cream in shells for a penny each. By 1858 he was selling as many as 10,000 a day.
Who was ‘The Queen of Ices’?
Agnes Bertha Marshall. Born in Walthamstow in 1855, she was in many ways one of the forerunners of today’s celebrity cooks. As well as giving public lectures on cooking and setting up a cookery school, she wrote extensively on ices, patented an ice cream-making machine and even suggested the use of liquid nitrogen in the freezing process. Her 1888 Book of Cookery included what was possibly the first ever published recipe for an edible ice cream cone.
Why is an ice cream cone with a chocolate flake stuck in it called a 99?
That question has caused more debate than the controversy over the fate of the princes in the Tower! It was once argued that Italian vendors in Britain named them after the 99 elite soldiers who (supposedly) made up the guard of the Italian king at the turn of the 20th century. More recently it has been claimed that it was derived from the address of an ice cream shop in Portobello, Scotland. The Oxford English Dictionary remains unconvinced and simply says that the reason for the name is unknown.
A child devours an ice cream on the sands of Cliftonville, Kent in August 1954