Spoonful of history


Sharpen your No. 2 pencils; it’s time to take an ice-cream quiz. The hand-cranked ice-cream churn was invented by: (a) Thomas Jefferson, (b) Benjamin Franklin or (c) Nancy Johnson.

The ice-cream soda was invented in 1876 in: (b) New York City, (b) Baltimore or (c) Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, the tiny slivers of chocolate into which a cone of ice cream is dipped are called: (a) jimmies, (b) sprinkles or (c) janies.

The ice-cream scoop was invented in: (a) 1878, (b) 1912 or (c) 1933.

True or false: In 1896, Italian immigrant Italo Marchioni, a pushcart vendor, invents the ice-cream cone because he is tired of customers taking his glass containers.

How many gallons of milk does it take to make one gallon of ice cream?: (a) 8, (b) 12 or (c) 18.

The answers appear at the end of this column, but no matter what your IQ (ice-cream quotient), everyone from California to Maine, to Florida and Washington loves and screams for ice cream. To me, it is the quintessential American dessert, although I adore ice cream so much I could eat it on a snowy December morning.

This month, Turkey Hill Dairy, based in nearby Conestoga, Pa., will introduce a line of all-natural rich Philadelphia Style Ice Cream. It is named in honor of our city because in 1843, Philadelphia homemaker Nancy Johnson invented the classic hand-cranked ice-cream churn. Until Johnson came up with the idea, ice cream was considered a luxury for the rich.

Bring your taste buds to Dilworth Plaza, outside City Hall, tomorrow from 8 am to 1 p.m. Turkey Hill Dairy will create an American flag made with 950 gallons of ice cream. Mosey over to the Reading Terminal Market on Saturday, where everyone will be treated to all the free ice cream they can eat. You can even build your own sundae.

Turkey Hill Dairy will throw ice-cream block parties throughout August and September. One is slated for South Philadelphia and I’ll let you know the date as soon as it is fixed.

Philadelphia is famous for cheesesteaks, hoagies, soft pretzels, root beer — Hires Root Beer was born in our city, in fact — pepperpot soup and a host of delicious things to eat. But when it comes to ice cream, move over Manhattan — Philadelphia is in the forefront of history.

In 1784, George Washington purchased an ice-cream maker in Philadelphia. In 1790, he spent $200 on ice cream, which would be equivalent to about $96,400 today. In the 1820s, former White House chef Augustus Jackson produced ice cream for his and other African-American-owned ice cream parlors on South Street. In 1851, Jacob Fussell opened the first commercial ice-cream plant in Philadelphia.

Two years ago, the United States produced more than 1.6 billion gallons of ice cream. Each American savored 23 quarts. The ice-cream industry generates approximately $20 billion in sales each year.

The history of the sundae, however, is not rooted in our city. In the mid-1800s, town leaders in Evanston, Ill., believed that soda fountains and their treats were keeping people out of church. They passed a law banning the sale of ice-cream sodas on Sunday. An inspired soda jerk began to serve sodas without the seltzer water. He placed scoops of ice cream in a dessert bowl and added toppings. He christened it "the ice cream sundae."

According to the International Ice Cream Association, more ice cream is eaten on

Sunday than any other day of the week. Although our family enjoyed ice cream every day, I have fond memories of Sunday nights at 8 when I was a girl. I clearly recall filling my bowl with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, pouring on Bosco or Hershey chocolate syrup, spooning on wet walnuts and topping the sundae off with whipped cream, and settling down to watch The Ed Sullivan Show in glorious black and white.

The ice-cream sundae is so American and so famous that it is served in its own special tall glass. Then there are "parfait" glasses, which are slimmer than the sundae glass. I even serve ice cream in oversized martini glasses. Either way, good hot fudge, green "creme de menthe," rich caramel or butterscotch sauce, or a pur�e of either blueberries, strawberries or raspberries are delicious toppings.

One of my favorite desserts is a slice of rich pound cake, topped with ice cream and hot fudge. If I don’t have pound cake on hand, a rich chocolate brownie is a fine substitute. When I was a girl, I loved to dip salted pretzels into chocolate ice cream.

Since blueberries are in season, blueberry pies easily can be found in bakeries, farm stores and supermarkets. Try a scoop of coffee ice cream on a slice of blueberry pie. The combination of flavors is downright delicious.

A favorite restaurant dessert from childhood is the snowball. A big scoop of coffee or vanilla ice cream would be rolled in toasted coconut and topped with hot fudge.

For more information on Turkey Hill’s block parties in honor of Philadelphia Style ice cream, visit the Web site at www.turkeyhill.com.

Answers to the quiz: (c), (c), (a),(a), true and (b).