Ice Cream: A Global HistoryHistory, Non-fiction
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.