Everyone’s familiar with it — the classic, delectable treat that’s such a staple of summertime that any hot July day might feel like National Ice Cream Day.
But July 15 marks the official annual celebration of ice cream. It’s a perfect time to appreciate the sweet treat and its fascinating history.
Ice cream dates back thousands of years. It’s long been beloved by Americans and people around the world. Modern statistics show just how much people adore the dessert today.
In celebration of National Ice Cream Day, here’s a look at eight things you probably didn’t know about the creamy summertime favorite.
1. Ice cream is older than you think.
Ice cream dates back to ancient times. Alexander the Great reportedly enjoyed snow and ice flavored with nectar and honey, while the Roman emperor Nero Claudius Caesar sent runners into the mountains for snow, which was flavored with juice.
In the 1300s, Marco Polo brought an early version of ice cream — resembling a modern-day sherbet — back to Europe after his global travels.
By the late 1700s, American high society enjoyed ice cream as a delicacy. And in 1776, America’s first ice cream parlor opened in New York.
2. Even ice cream cones are more than a century old.
Concessions vendors invented ice cream cones at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, according to Ben and Jerry’s. They were designed to help people eat ice cream easily while enjoying the fair’s attractions.
The “sundae” dates back to the 1890s. Ice cream merchants introduced a non-carbonated version of ice cream soda to serve on Sundays in response to criticism of the rich ice cream soda as too sinful for the Sabbath.
3. There’s a considerable amount of science behind ice cream.
Ice cream contains microscopic air bubbles that keep it nice and fluffy. When it melts, the air bubbles collapse. So, if you refreeze melted ice cream, it’ll be less soft.
There’s science behind brain freeze, too. When a cold substance touches the roof of the mouth, the blood vessels running between the mouth and the brain tense up, trapping blood in the brain. That extra pressure causes mild pain.
4. Ice cream is adored around the world.
New Zealand consumes the most ice cream of any country, measured by the gallons per person per year, according to icecream.com. The United States is second, followed by Australia, Finland and Sweden.
The world’s tallest ice cream cone — a whopping 10 feet tall — was scooped in Norway.
5. But Americans really, really, love ice cream.
Eighty-seven percent of Americans have ice cream in their freezer at any given time, and the average American consumes 48 pints of ice cream per year.
The state that produces the most ice cream? California.
6. American presidential history and ice cream are closely intertwined.
Thomas Jefferson, while not responsible for introducing ice cream to the United States, did help popularize it.
He’s credited with the first known recipe recorded by an American, and there are six references to ice cream being served at the President’s House during the Jefferson administration.
In 1813, Dolley Madison served a famous strawberry ice cream dish at her husband’s second inaugural banquet.
7. Cows play a crucial role in bringing you that perfect sundae.
A cow provides enough milk to make two gallons of ice cream per day — or 730 gallons per year.
In fact, about 9 percent of milk produced in the U.S. is used to make ice cream.
8. Statistics suggest that ice cream doesn’t bring out our best manners.
One in 10 people admit to licking the bowl after they finish a helping of ice cream. One in five say they share it with their pets.
It takes about 50 licks to finish a cone of ice cream.
Pro tip: Brain freeze can be remedied by pressing the tongue against the roof of the mouth to relax those blood vessels.