6 Things You Might Not Know About Ice Cream Sandwiches

bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images
bhofack2/iStock via Getty Images

August 2 is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day, and this year marks the delicious delicacy's 120th birthday. But what exactly constitutes an ice cream sandwich? In America, it’s typically ice cream flanked between two chocolate wafer-like pieces with holes punched in them, but you can use biscuits, cookies, and a number of other treats as the "bread."

In the beginning, vanilla was the standard flavor for the filling of an ice cream sandwich, but flavors evolved to include Neapolitan (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry), and nowadays every flavor under the sun. In honor of the holiday, and the 120th anniversary of the treat's invention, let's pay tribute to the iconic frozen novelty.

1. New York City street vendors started selling ice cream sandwiches in the late 1800s.

No one is sure of the exact date the ice cream sandwich was first invented, but food writer Jeri Quinzio told The Boston Globe that the earliest versions of them were called hokey pokeys and that street vendors were selling them on the Bowery in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. Back then, the humble sandwich was just ice cream held together with two pieces of paper. The cost of the frozen treat? One penny.

Quinzio cited an 1899 article in the New York Mail and Express, which stated: “There are ham sandwiches and salmon sandwiches and cheese sandwiches and several other kinds of sandwiches, but the latest is the ice-cream sandwich.”

2. The earliest known ice cream sandwich recipe used sponge cake.

According to the Food Network, the earliest known ice cream sandwich recipe wasn't made with biscuits, but two slices of sponge cake.

3. Ice cream sandwiches were developed as a cheap treat, but soon became a staple at high-end eateries.

Because the "sandwiches" were sold on the street, they catered more toward working-class individuals. However, the deliciousness of the treats quickly caught on and became a hit with Wall Street workers. On August 19, 1899 the New York Sun ran a story about the phenomenon, stating: "The brokers themselves got to buying ice cream sandwiches and eating them in a democratic fashion side by side on the sidewalk with the messengers and the office boys."

Eventually, high-end restaurants started serving them, and "Elite confectioners started using plates and forks in a dainty fashion, and saying [their sandwiches were] so much better than the ones sold on the street," Quinzio told The Boston Globe.

4. The ice cream cookie sandwich was born in San Francisco.

Chocolate chip mint ice cream cookie sandwiches
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Cookies have become a popular alternative to the basic chocolate wafer in building an ice cream sandwich, and we apparently have California to thank for that. According to the Food Network, in 1928, an ice cream vendor in San Francisco decided to place a glob of ice cream between a pair of oatmeal cookies then dip the whole thing in chocolate. And a whole new kind of ice cream sandwich was born.

5. A baseball stadium food vendor gets a lot of credit for inventing the modern-day ice cream sandwich, but that might be because of Wikipedia.

According to various accounts, it was Jeremy Newberg—an ice cream vendor at Pittsburgh's former Forbes Field—who supposedly created the vanilla-and-chocolate ice cream sandwich: a perfect block of vanilla ice cream gently placed between two rectangular chocolate wafers. He made and sold these ice cream treats at baseball games in the 1940s.

The Boston Globe interviewed Newberg ;(who is now 91) and his family to discuss his contributions to the ice cream sandwich world. While Newberg confirmed that he did indeed sell the desserts at the stadium for a nickel apiece, his grandson Matt was less committal. Because Newberg has long talked about his role in the treat's invention, Matt explained that "as an ode to my grandfather, I cited him as one of the inventors [on] Wikipedia." Which is how Newberg's name has become so closely associated with the dessert. "We’re not sure he’s actually the inventor," Matt admitted, "but we call him that because we love him."

6. Other countries have their own versions of the ice cream sandwich.

While the ice cream sandwich is an American invention, the treats have inspired countries like Australia, Ireland, Singapore, Israel, Uruguay, Iran, and Vietnam to concoct their own versions. In Iran, there's the bastani-e nooni, which is saffron and rosewater ice cream served between two wafers and dipped in pistachios. Vietnam street vendors sell bánh mì kẹp kem, ice cream smashed between two pieces of bread—a bona fide sandwich—and topped with crushed peanuts.

10 Delicious Hot Chocolate Mix-Ins

Lilechka75/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Lilechka75/iStock via Getty Images Plus

It's hot chocolate season—and while there's nothing wrong with plopping in a few marshmallows into your hot cocoa, there are many other ways to spice it up. Whether you're bored or just looking to try something new, these 10 ingredients will take your hot chocolate to the next level.

1. Peanut Butter

A jar of peanut butter in a white bowl with peanuts on a blue table.
Kevin Brine/iStock via Getty Images Plus

If you're a fan of the peanut butter and chocolate combination, this recipe from One Ordinary Day is for you. Just add a few dollops of regular, creamy peanut butter right into your saucepan along with the chocolate and enjoy.

2. Nutella

For a hazelnut flavor, mix some nutella into the saucepan. This one goes best with a whipped cream garnish.

3. Maple Syrup

Maple syrup in a glass bottle on a wooden table.
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For a New England twist on cocoa, add a couple teaspoons of maple syrup. If you need an extra kick, a couple pinches of nutmeg will do.

4. Cinnamon

A mere teaspoon of cinnamon in a saucepan of hot chocolate is all it takes to create a delicious mix of cinnamon hot chocolate.

5. Oreos

sandwich cookies on a blue background
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You’ll need a food processor or blender to chop up around four oreos until they're the texture of sugar. Add it to the hot chocolate mix, then top with whipped cream and more crushed Oreos.

6. Peppermint

For a batch of peppermint hot chocolate, all it takes is three drops of peppermint oil and a pinch of salt.

7. Ginger

fresh ginger on a black background
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To make hot cocoa taste like gingerbread, add one piece of ginger, 10 cloves, and two cinnamon sticks while cooking.

8. Chili Powder

If you really want to spice up the beverage, whip up a batch of Mexican hot chocolate. This includes a little bit of ground cinnamon and a pinch of chili powder.

9. Cherry

Cherries in a jar.
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For a full batch of hot chocolate to taste like cherry, it takes a few tablespoons of maraschino cherry juice.

10. Booze

There are many types of alcohol that go well in hot chocolate. Some options include brandy, Kahlua, peppermint schnapps, raspberry liqueur, tequila, amaretto, Bailey’s Irish Creme, and even red wine.

101 Years Later: Remembering Boston's Great Molasses Flood of 1919

Boston Public Library, Flickr, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Boston Public Library, Flickr, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

On January 15, 1919, Boston suffered one of history’s strangest disasters: a devastating flood of molasses. The “Great Molasses Flood” tore through the city's North End and deposited so much gooey residue that locals claimed they could still smell the molasses on warm days decades later.

While most of us probably think of molasses as a tasty ingredient in treats like gingerbread, the sticky stuff has quite a few other uses. With a little know-how, one can turn molasses into rum or industrial alcohol fairly easily, and the Purity Distilling Company had built the gigantic tank in Boston’s North End in 1915 to supply its booze-making operations.

The steel tank was enormous: 50 feet tall, 90 feet across, and capable of holding 2.5 million gallons of molasses. (Although Prohibition kicked in with Nebraska’s ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment the very next day after the 1919 disaster, the United States Industrial Alcohol Company, Purity Distilling’s parent company, still had a license to distill alcohol for industrial applications.)


By Unknown - Anthony Mitchell Sammarco. Boston's North End. Arcadia Publishing, 2004, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

The massive tank was nearly full on January 15, thanks to a recent infusion of 2.3 million gallons of molasses from Puerto Rico. Just after noon, something went horribly wrong. Witnesses later recalled hearing a noise like gunfire as the tank’s rivets popped and the steel sides ripped open. Suddenly, 26 million pounds of molasses were tearing down Commercial Street in a 15-foot wave.

A shockingly destructive force

A giant wave of a sticky foodstuff sounds like something from a cartoon, but the surging molasses was a shockingly destructive force. The wave moved at upwards of 35 mph, and the power was sufficient to rip buildings off of their foundations. The molasses snapped the support girders from an elevated train track and smashed multiple houses. The Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities’s website claimed the property damage alone totaled around $100 million in today’s dollars.

The human cost of the disaster was even more grim. The wave of molasses moved so quickly and so forcefully that anyone who was unlucky enough to be in its way didn’t stand much of a chance. They were either knocked over and crushed or drowned in the goo. The flood claimed 21 lives, and another 150 people suffered injuries. Any flood would have been disastrous, but the viscous nature of molasses made rescue attempts even trickier. Medics and police officers arrived on the scene quickly but had to slog through waist-deep goo to reach victims.


Boston Post, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Even after the victims had been pulled from the muck, cleanup crews quickly learned that getting rid of 2 million gallons of molasses is no small task. In his book Dark Tide, Stephen Puleo wrote about one of the chief obstacles to the cleanup: firefighters couldn’t just use their hoses to blast the molasses off of buildings and streets with fresh water. Eventually they realized that saltwater would cut the hardened molasses and enable them to hose it down the streets into gutters. Thanks to all the foot traffic of rescue workers, cleanup crews, and rubberneckers, the sticky mess quickly moved around the city via people's shoes. In all, the cleanup effort required over 80,000 man-hours.

The Blame Game

How did this tragedy happen in the first place? The United States Industrial Alcohol Company was quick to blame everyone’s favorite early 20th-century scapegoats: anarchists. The company claimed that since its alcohol was an ingredient in government munitions, anarchists must have sabotaged the tank by detonating a bomb. Another theory explained that the molasses had fermented inside the tank, which led to an explosion.

Investigators soon found the real culprit, though: shoddy construction work. The company had been in such a hurry to get the tank built back in 1915 that it didn’t cut corners so much as it ignored the corners completely. Modern studies have found that the tank walls were both too thin and made of a steel that was too brittle to withstand the volume of molasses.

The man who oversaw the construction wasn’t an engineer or an architect; in fact, he couldn’t even read a blueprint. The tank needed to be an engineering marvel to hold all that weight, but the company never even consulted an engineer on the project. Basically, it threw up a gigantic tank as quickly and as cheaply as possible, skimped on inspections and safety tests, and hoped for the best.


Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In light of these details, it’s amazing that the tank held together for four years. Nearby residents reported that the tank had leaked since its construction. Rather than fix the problem, the United States Industrial Alcohol Company had painted the tank brown so the leaks would be less noticeable.

The largely working-class North End residents who had lost their homes and loved ones in the disaster predictably turned their rage toward the United States Industrial Alcohol Company. USIA soon found itself named as the defendant in 125 lawsuits, which led to a legal battle that nearly matched the flood’s scale.

The Massachusetts Superior Court named Colonel Hugh Ogden as the auditor who would hear the evidence and report back on the cause of the disaster. It took Ogden nearly six years to hear testimony from 3000 witnesses. When he finally penned his report, he concluded that there was no evidence to support the company’s theory of anarchist saboteurs. Instead, Ogden found that the “factor of safety” in the tank’s construction and inspection had been woefully low. USIA was liable for the damage and paid around $7000 to the family of each victim.

The Great Molasses Flood still seems like a tragedy that could have been averted, but the disaster really drew attention to the potential repercussions of shaky construction. The case helped prompt Massachusetts and many other states to pass laws requiring that engineers and architects inspect and approve plans for major construction projects.

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