Polo one of earliest forerunners of ice cream

Polo one of earliest forerunners of ice cream

Deborah Walker

(June 12, 2015) Culinary history can be a subject of much debate due to the lack of documentation. Various views of specificity can also raise the realm of discrepancy.

In addition, the many myths that follow the natural discourse of cookery must be deciphered between fact and fiction. Ice cream is a topic that exemplifies the theory of ambiguous antiquity.

Some sources say the ancient Romans invented ice cream; others believe Marco Polo brought the discovery back to Italy from China. All agree that Catherine de Medici introduced the French to ice cream when she married the future King Henri II. Not to be outdone by Europeans, some Americans have claimed that ice cream was first made by Martha Washington or brought to this country from France by Thomas Jefferson. Some of the assertions have validity; but perceiving ice cream as we know it today may be the culprit for some of the misunderstanding.

Ice cream probably originated in China. As early as the seventh century, writings about a Chinese frozen milk product have been verified. Proof is uncertain, but many culinary historians believe the knowledge of how to freeze things by the combination of ice and salt is what lit the spark of fascination and eventually perfection.

Supporting this theory brings us to the subject of Polo and Italy. Polo was one of the earliest forerunners of ice cream. He brought back a recipe from China and introduced it to Italy. The dish was similar to what we call sherbet; technically not an ice cream but much more advanced than flavored ice. Destiny was in the making and there is clear literary evidence that France followed Italy’s experimentation and refined the sweet, creamy treat.

According to an article titled, “Ice Cream Facts, Information, Pictures” that appeared on Encyclopedia.com, Mary Eales is credited with the first ice cream recipe printed in English (1718). The first official account of ice cream being served comes from a letter written in 1744 by a guest of Maryland Governor William Bladen. And the first advertisement for ice cream in this country appeared in the New York Gazette on May 12, 1777, when the proprietors announced that ice cream was available almost every day.

Many wealthy colonial Americans owned icehouses, which made the delectable dessert more feasible. Implicit in the operation of making ice cream was the use of metal that transferred the cold temperature of the ice as quickly as possible to the cream.

Pewter was the preferred metal of most ice cream makers down to the end of the 19th century, when it was replaced by other alloys. The reasons for replacing pewter were several: it pitted and warped easily, but most importantly it reacted chemically with acids in ice creams, thus forming toxic lead salts.

Ice creams have come a long way and with that complexity comes the opportunity for competition. I wonder what our forefathers would think of Kulfi (an Indian rose based ice cream) that is blended with almonds, pistachios, saffron and cardamom or Nutella Banana Crunch which is a chocolate based ice cream packed with Nutella, fresh bananas, and crunchy granola?

But can you imagine their reaction to fried ice cream? A crunchy exterior that surrounds a mound of luscious, frozen cream is stupendous indeed. Not only is fried ice cream simple to make, but the ingenuity will dazzle your family and friends alike. One doesn’t need to be an accomplished chef to master fried ice cream. Exceeding one’s comfort zone is the secret to home cooking. Enjoy!

Fried French Vanilla Ice Cream

1 pint French vanilla ice cream

3 cups crushed cornflakes

1 tablespoon cinnamon

2 egg whites

canola oil for frying

toppings of choice for a garnish

1. On a parchment lined baking sheet, scoop out ½ cup size scoops of ice cream. Place them in the freezer for 2 hours or until the ice cream is very hard. Make sure the freezer temperature is extremely cold.

2. In a shallow baking dish combine crushed cornflakes and cinnamon. In a separate dish beat egg whites until stiff. Roll each of the ice cream balls in the egg whites and then in the cornflake mixture, make sure that they are fully coated. Place the ice cream balls onto the baking sheet and put back into the freezer for at least 2 hours.

3. Heat a heavy bottomed pot filled with canola oil to 375 degrees.

4. Remove ice cream from the freezer and working one at a time, place a frozen ice cream ball on a spider (preferably) or slotted spoon and carefully lower into hot oil. Keeping the ice cream on the spider spoon, fry for 10 seconds or until golden brown.

5. Place on a cooling rack and blot any excess oil. Garnish with toppings of choice and serve immediately.

Recipe yields four vanilla fried ice cream balls.

Secret Ingredient – Debate.

“It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.” – Joseph Joubert


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