Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stories of Ice Cream: Italians

Remorse of Emperor Nero by John William Waterhouse
Every summer, the scorching is always a torture. Sweat pouring down in your head and in your body. Thirst unquenched. People do drastic things to remain cool, facing air conditioner, fanning oneself vigorously, etc. But one thing that people would search is a treat that help to ease the heat. And there noting more than ice cream. A dairy product with mixed with different flavors that cools the body. However, it is such a surprise that this summer time treat has a shrouded history. In stories the Italians were widely credited for its creation.

Italians were recognized by stories for the invention of ice cream. The first of those credited was the brutal tyrant Emperor Nero. It is such a surprise that such a sweet treat to be made by such a cruel bloody man. Nero was the infamous Emperor of Rome. Famous for a sadistic mind, he persecuted the Christians for a great fire and some of them were unluckily made into human torches to light his garden. In addition, the damaged area by the same great fire was made by Nero into his personal luxurious villa, complete with a huge lake. And so the stories goes like this: Nero became infatuated with scorching heat. And so to cool and relieve himself, he ordered his slaves to go to the nearby mountain, take some snow, and bring them back to him. After the slave done his orders. Nero pour flower nectars, fruit juice, and honey to the snow, giving flavor to the first ice cream.  But questions rattle this story. There were no historical records of such orders or actions by the Emperor. And so it remained contested.

Another Italian that was credited for bringing and spreading of ice cream was Marco Polo. Centuries ahead of Emperor Nero, Marco Polo was a famous Venetian that travelled to the east. Using the Silk Road, he reached the Middle East and then the courts of Kublai Khan in China. It was said that it was during his trip to China that he saw the idea of the ice cream. According to story, Marco Polo learned ice cream from Mongols who occupied China. Milk along with fruit were kept in the bag of Mongol horsemen. As they rode along cold route and with the galloping motion, the milk develop into a creamy consistency; and thus, ice cream. From this Mongols in China, Marco Polo returned to Italy along with him was the idea of ice cream. However, this story was also disputable. First of all, scholars were doubtful if Marco Polo even reached China. In addition, there were no mentions of ice cream in his book. Thus, this is also good as legends.

Turning into another Italian that had contributed to the development of ice cream was the Catherine de Medici. A young girl from the powerful and wealthy family of the Medici, she was sent to France to secure a marriage with the house of Valois. Along with her entourage to the French court, she brought with her chefs that would introduce elements of Italian cuisine to France. Along with her and her chefs was ice cream. From her chefs, ice cream spread to the French royal court. However, this was also disputable. 

These stories about the contribution of Italians to ice cream were all doubtful and contested, but it remained good legends for a story that is shrouded in mystery.  Without solid proof of these story, it would remain as stories and not history. But one thing is certain, Italy had made many contributions to the culinary world, most famous being pasta, pizza, and their version of ice cream - gelato. Regardless whether the stories are true or not, the fact remains, the Italians had the mastery of ice cream making. 

See also:
Catherine de Medici and French Cuisine

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