There’s very little that goes better with summer than ice cream, which is why this week we will celebrate all things ice cream as our invention of the week.
Ice cream is one of those things that is truly impossible to date. Not only was it invented long ago (and therefore has no patent), which in and of itself is problematic for dating it, but there is also the question as to what really qualifies as ice cream. Does simply flavoring ice with honey or fruits count as ice cream? If so, ice cream has been around for thousands of years. References to flavored ices exist from the Biblical King Solomon and Alexander the Great in BC times, and to the Roman Empire shortly after that. Furthermore, it is believed by many that the Chinese invented it even before this, possible thousands of years earlier than in the West.
Approximately a millennium or so later, Marco Polo returned from China with a new treat that was similar to what we would call sherbet today. Somehow or another, during the period of great innovation known as the Renaissance, this treat morphed into something that was more similar to ice cream. Where it happened is again somewhat questionable. Some say in Britain, others say Italy. Apparently ice cream was deemed so good that it wasn’t until approximately 100 years later that the nobility decided to share it with commoners. Even then, ice cream generally remained a treat for the elite.
As a big fan of ice cream, I can understand the urge to want to keep it all for oneself. That combination of milk, cream, vanilla, and sugar is undeniably a personal favorite. And that brings us to how this week’s invention is ice cream. No, it’s not just that ice cream goes great with the hot weather. There is another reason: on July 19, 1921, the name Breyers was granted trademark protection by the United States.
Breyers existed for longer than that, as it can trace its history to 1866, when William A. Breyer of Philadelphia produced his first batch of ice cream. The ingredients were simple, and for years Breyers tried to keep it that way, sticking with milk, cream, vanilla and sugar, for example, for its basic vanilla flavor. Of course, as times change, so do manufacturing methods.
Today Breyers Natural Vanilla sticks to this basic recipe, but others in the Breyers family have strayed from the all-natural formula. Most probably would not necessarily view that as a positive change, but jamming things like Oreos and M&M’s in ice cream certainly have been. Other ice cream related inventions have maybe been a bit lacking, but we’ll save that topic for later in the week.