“Ice Cream” or “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream” is a popular song, first published in 1927. Its words and music were by Howard Johnson, Billy Moll and Robert King. The song was successful in the late 1920’s as a novelty song, and then became a traditional jazz standard. However, the lyrics refrain, “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream” remains a part of popular culture even without the rest of the song.

Now that the summer season is almost over, many people have been enjoying the making and eating of that delicious dessert called ice cream that makes us “scream!” According to my research, ice cream evolves from “iced cream” and “cream ice” and is a frozen food eaten as a snack or dessert. It is usually made from milk and cream, and often combined with fruits or other ingredients and flavors. Typically, it is sweetened with sucrose, corn syrup, cane sugar, beet sugar and/or other sweeteners. In addition to stabilizers, flavorings and colorings are also added, and then the mixture is stirred to incorporate air spaces. (Stabilizers make ice cream firm, and keep its appearance from constantly changing.) Also, it is cooled below the freezing point of water to prevent detectable ice crystals from forming, with the result being a smooth, semi-solid foam that is solid at very low temperatures (below 35 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Celsius). The mixture becomes more pliable as its temperature increases.

Additional research shows that a frozen mixture of milk and rice was used in China around 200 BC. It is said that the Chinese might be credited with inventing a device to make sorbets and ice cream by pouring a mixture of snow and saltpeter over the exteriors of containers filled with syrup. This lowers the freezing point to below zero in the same way as salt raises the boiling point of water. (Sorbet is a dessert consisting of frozen fruit juice or flavored water and sugar.) Arabs made ice cream using milk as a major ingredient, and sweetened it with sugar, then flavored it with rosewater, dried fruits and nuts. Also, the Roman Emperor Nero (37-68 AD) had ice brought from the mountains and combined it with fruit toppings in order to create chilled desserts. Then, in the sixteenth century, the Mughal emperors used relays of horsemen to bring ice from the Hindu Kush to Delhi, where it was used in fruit sorbets. Next, the Italian duchess Catherine de’Medici married the Duke of Orleans (Henry II of France) in 1533, and is said to have brought the recipe for flavored ices or sorbets with her to France. Ice cream was introduced to the United States by Quaker colonists who brought their ice cream recipes with them. Ice cream was first mentioned in America in 1744, when a Scottish colonist visited Maryland Governor Thomas Bladen, and wrote about the delicious strawberry ice cream he had while dining there. During the colonial era, confectioners sold ice cream at their shops in New York and other cities. Early American presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were known to have eaten and served ice cream on a regular basis; First Lady Dolley Madison is said to have served ice cream at her husband’s second Inaugural Banquet.

Until the 1800’s, ice cream was mostly a treat which could only be enjoyed on special occasions, and by the elite population. Ice cream had to be enjoyed immediately due to the lack of insulated freezers. (This is something we take for granted in today’s world.) The making of ice cream involved cutting ice from lakes in winter and storing it in the ground or in brick ice houses, which were insulated with straw. During this time, ice cream was made using the “pot freezer” method, which involved placing a bowl of cream in a bucket of ice and salt, but not mixing the ice and salt with the cream. Then, in the 1840’s, this method was replaced by the hand-cranked churn, patented by Nancy Johnson. Also, around 1800, insulated ice houses were invented, and the manufacturing of ice cream became an industry in America, when Jacob Fussell built an ice cream factory in Pennsylvania in 1851. In the 1870’s, Carl von Linde of Germany invented industrial refrigeration, giving ice cream even more support. During the late nineteenth century, ice cream became more available, and in 1874, the American soda fountain shop and the profession of the “soda jerk” emerged with the invention of the ice cream soda. Ice cream merchants, in response to religious criticism for eating “sinfully” rich ice cream sodas on Sundays, left out the carbonated water and invented the ice cream “Sunday” in the late 1890’s. Eventually the name was changed to “sundae” to remove any connection to the Sabbath. Soft-serve ice cream is made by adding air to the ice cream mixture during the freezing process, and has been around since the 1930’s; also, ice cream was first sold in grocery stores in the 1930’s. During World War II, ice cream became an edible morale symbol, with each branch of the military trying to outdo the others in serving ice cream to its troops. It is estimated that in today’s market over 1.6 billion gallons of ice cream and related frozen dairy products are produced annually in the United States. Also, today’s citizens of the U.S. eat four gallons of ice cream per person each year on average. (That’s a lot of ice cream!)

The edible ice cream cone made its first appearance at the 1904 Saint Louis World’s Fair, where ice cream in a cone was served by a number of vendors at the Fair. It is not known who made the first ice cream cone, but Abe Doumar, a Lebanese immigrant, built one of the first machines in the United States for making ice cream cones. However, Doumar did not make his first cone machine until after the World’s Fair.

Something else associated with ice cream is the ice cream headache, or brain freeze. Scientists explain that this is a kind of short-term headache which is linked to rapid consumption of ice-cream, ice desserts or very cold drinks. The sensation of brain freeze seems to be caused from a nerve response due to sudden increase in blood flow through the brain’s anterior cerebral artery. (Anterior refers to front; cerebral refers to brain.) As soon as the artery constricts, the brain-freeze pain sensation wears off. Scientists are able to trigger the artery’s constriction by giving the person warm water to drink. (Constriction means contracting, squeezing, or making smaller.) Scientists suggest that the trigeminal nerve (facial nerve; tri means three) conducts signals from dilating blood vessels in the palate to the brain, which interprets the pain as coming from the forehead during an ice cream headache.

I can remember my grandmother (Clara Thomison Brown) making ice cream during the summer when it was a special treat. She used the old fashioned aluminum ice trays without the sectioned part which made the ice into shapes. Granny usually made peach ice cream because she thought it was her best endeavor, and she was allergic to strawberries! After removing the seeds and peeling the peaches, she would mash them, adding one package Junket mix, two tablespoons of sugar and one can of evaporated milk. This mixture would be covered and left in the refrigerator overnight. The next day she would whip a pint of whipping cream and add the peach mixture to it; then the mix would be poured into (usually) two ice trays and frozen. It would be stirred approximately every hour until completely frozen, and then enjoyed. (The Junket powder was sold in a small box and was a powdered dessert mix containing rennet which is used in milk and cheese production. It is still available today through the internet.)

As we think about the summer season and our favorite ice cream recipes and flavors, we may be able to remember the many times we have made ice cream and how much fun those old time gatherings were. Many church socials and other parties became happy times due to the making of ice cream and the enjoyment of it. I’m sure we could find plenty of examples of the “ice cream social” in the past history of many families of Rhea County. Also, there are many times when Rhea County would like to “scream for ice cream!” Those were the times which brought people together for social occasions and help us to study the past in order to live in the present and prepare for the future.

Pat Guffey can be reached at pat459@charter.net