Review – Ice Cream: A Global History

Posted February 8, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 10 Comments

Review – Ice Cream: A Global History

Ice Cream: A Global History

by Laura B. Weiss

Genres: History, Non-fiction
Pages: 176
Series: Edible
Rating: four-stars

Be it soft-serve, gelato, frozen custard, Indian kulfi or Israeli glida, some form of cold, sweet ice cream treat can found throughout the world in restaurants and home freezers. Though ice cream was once considered a food for the elite, it has evolved into one of the most successful mass-market products ever developed.

In Ice Cream, food writer Laura B. Weiss takes the reader on a vibrant trip through the history of ice cream from ancient China to modern-day Tokyo in order to tell the lively story of how this delicious indulgence became a global sensation. Weiss tells of donkeys wooed with ice cream cones, Good Humor-loving World War II-era German diplomats, and sundaes with names such as "Over the Top" and "George Washington." Her account is populated with Chinese emperors, English kings, former slaves, women inventors, shrewd entrepreneurs, Italian immigrant hokey-pokey ice cream vendors, and gourmand American First Ladies. Today American brands dominate the world ice cream market, but vibrant dessert cultures like Italy's continue to thrive, and new ones, like Japan's, flourish through unique variations.

Weiss connects this much-loved food with its place in history, making this a book sure to be enjoyed by all who are beckoned by the siren song of the ice cream truck.

As always with the Edible Series, Laura B. Weiss’ Ice Cream: A Global History has colour illustrations and a few recipes at the back, along with references and a bibliography. It’s a bitesize look at food history through a very specific food. (Yep, you’ve guessed it — ice cream.)

Unlike some of these volumes, it doesn’t get too pedantic about what counts here. It discusses gelato and, though it mostly sticks to milk-based iced treats, it does mention the water-based treats which have gone alongside it (sorbet, popsicles, etc). Though it does touch on most of the world here, it feels like it’s most emphatic about the USA’s part in popularising ice cream, and I don’t actually know if that’s as true as the book makes it sound. It does refer to the development of various well-known ice cream brands from the US, but the discussion of soda fountains and such seems very specifically USian.

Overall, it had the predictable effect: I learned some fascinating new things, and I really want some ice cream right now.

Rating: 4/5

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10 responses to “Review – Ice Cream: A Global History

  1. mae

    the cover looks familiar — I must have others from that series. I’ve definitely read several histories of ice cream and ice-cream cones, but maybe not this one. I think they all had a US focus, though it would be interesting to learn about ice cream history in France and Italy!
    best, mae at

  2. Ha! It would make me want ice cream, too. St. Louis claims to be the place where the ice-cream cone was invented — at the 1904 World’s Fair when a waffle vendor had a booth next to an ice cream vendor while the fair produced an obvious need for portable ice cream. I know that there are other claimants, but I’ll never be convinced otherwise.

    • Haha, just a little. I think genuinely there was a lot of US influence on the marketing of ice cream and stuff like ice cream parlours, though…

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