Despite all the lecturing I do to people about healthy eating, I have no willpower when it comes to ice cream. The years of knowledge I’ve accumulated about nutrition vanish into thin air when I enter good ice cream shop.
Like most people, I would have thought this wonderful dish was created in a cold climate. But, as usual, my first instincts were off the mark. Ice cream was invented on the Italian island of Sicily. The most likely reason was the existence of the volcano Mount Etna, which is high enough to maintain snow in its higher elevations year-round. That was where the Sicilians harvested snow to cool their drinks and freeze their desserts. Mount Etna was special because it spewed out volcanic ash, preserving the snow with an insulating blanket.
Later, Roman emperors sent their wine to be cooled in the caves of Mount Etna. Eventually, Sicilians began preserving the snow underground, allowing to convert to ice, which they sold as far away as Rome. In the 10th century, Arabs came to Sicily, bringing with them cane sugars and citrus fruit and mixing them with ice, resulting in a sort of snow cone sorbet. That was the beginning of the world’s romance with ice cream.
Ultimately, the Roman Catholic Church took control of the ice, selling it throughout Italy and experimenting with the sweetened snow by using different flavors. Almond water, pistachios and fruits were added until, finally, milk was added, crating the final product we know today. By the 1600s, Sicilian ice cream makers became famous throughout Italy.
In 1774, the supply of snow in Mount Etna gave out, and the Sicilian parliament in Palermo dispatched dragoons to Mount Etna to confirm there was no snow.
I’ve eaten ice cream in various parts of the world but in my humble opinion, Italy makes the best in the world. Gelaterias, Italian ice cream shops, are handed down from generation to generation, with the secrets of the family retained within the family.
If my husband comes home with container of ice cream, it is his safe way of telling me that I need to chill. You see, two bites of good ice cream and I am a very happy person.