Whence Ice Cream?

SUMMER MAY BE OVER; HOWEVER, anyone with a sweet tooth can enjoy ice cream year-round. But who do we have to thank for it?

The estimable culinary-critique-and-history-website TASTE (featured earlier in “Digital Vittles“) relates that ice cream first came from the Levant (eastern Mediterranean shores) where, according to legend, a seller of orchid-bud flour fell asleep in the snow with a bowl on his lap containing a bit of his product mixed with milk. When he woke up, he tasted the result and had a Eureka! moment, which others soon copied. (You may want to take that account with a grain of rock salt, but as a late friend of mine was wont to say, “Sounds about as good as any other damn thing.”)

According to TASTE’s article, Levantine ice cream is, as it always has been, pounded with wooden mallets or pestles to achieve a dense, chewy consistency quite unlike its American counterpart. Devotees and manufacturers alike say this gives the frozen treat longer life on the tongue, making for a more contemplative sensory experience than that derived from the treat’s Western version. Now, where did I put that sledgehammer…?

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