About once or twice a week, I make a routine stop to a local ice cream vendor in New York City. My favorite is mochi ice cream, which I first discovered when a Korean friend turned me on to the doughy desert in college.
“The Chinese were the first ones to come up with a frozen sweet food,” Weiss said. Ancient Chinese emperors ate a dish made with buffalo or goat milk, frozen, with mix-ins known as dragon eyeballs and dragon brains, which was probably a lizard, Weiss said.
The ice cream we know today began in Italy and France, she said. Her book dispels multiple myths about who was instrumental in spreading the sweet delight. For example, Marco Polo did not bring ice cream back from China and Italian born Catherine de’ Medici did not introduce ice cream to France, when she married King Henry II. Finally, Americans were not the first to create ice cream. That’s right. Instead, we did what we do best—mass production to cheapen a product.
No longer a luxury for the wealthy, ice cream has evolved into a multibillion dollar industry. Weiss prefers the old-fashioned classics like chocolate and butter pecan.
Some people originally questioned her idea to write on the history of ice cream. “People just don’t think of it as a serious food or something you would devote serious research to,” Weiss said.
Still, many would retell their memories to Weiss about their fondness for ice cream. I remember growing up with ice cream trucks beckoning screaming children with their pied piper melody. Now they just sit parked on New York corners, but that doesn’t stop me from giving in to the tempting flavors.
Its appeal will forever be fascinating. Ice Cream: A Global History has been translated into Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Now Weiss is working on a new novel, but she was mum on details. “I can’t really say right now, but I guess I’ll have to put a scene in it where people are eating ice cream,” she laughed.
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