Vanilla ice cream is America’s top choice out of over five hundred different flavors available today. As the years go by, tastes change and have developed into thousands of combinations. However, Vanilla remains the flavor of choice for most of the population. What makes this flavor so unique? How long has it been available? And how has it developed?
The vanilla bean itself has medicinal properties in folklore and general use. Vanilla has long been known to calm the mind, create a ‘feel good’ feeling, and aid in relaxation. The vanilla bean itself is grown in various parts of the world in pods; the pods are picked and then sold for distribution. The quality of the vanilla bean varies by region, and it is used in baking, cooking, fragrances, and even modern medicine. Crushed vanilla beans are often considered a gourmet item, as they are purchased fresh. Vanilla is the most labor-intensive agricultural product in the world, and can take up to 18 monthso to cultivate properly. Vanilla extract is a processed version (unless it is labeled pure or organic), and is often used in general baking and available in most supermarkets.
Making ice cream from a recipe was the idea of Thomas Jefferson. At this time, ice cream was actually just an ‘iced cream’ as it was made out of fresh cream, sugar, and flavoring. Egg yolks were a later addition as the treat became popular and egg yolks added a creamier texture. Since ice houses were not invented until the late 1800s, the dessert was an elite-only privilege. The first ice cream parlor opened in New York in 1776. As ice houses and then ice making machines became popular, the dessert became a widespread phenomenon. Even today, America is the leading consumer of ice cream compared to Europe, Asia, and Australia. It remains a childhood favorite, and the varieties continue to multiply. It was offered to the immigrants on Ellis Island in the 1920s, and quickly became a part of American culture.
The distinctive Vanilla flavor even has varieties; New York Vanilla is considered the classic vanilla flavor. French Vanilla is used to describe an egg-custard flavor, and may be thicker than regular vanilla ice cream or used to describe a frozen custard. Companies such as Blue Bunny and Kemp’s also feature Homemade Vanilla, Country Vanilla, and Homestyle Vanilla with varying levels of sugar and vanilla flavoring. Whatever the case may be, the traditional vanilla flavor is a sure hit!
The Ice Cream Sundae also features traditional Vanilla ice cream for the base. The Sundae can be traced back to Ithaca, New York, where an advertisement was placed by Chester Platt in the Ithaca Daily Journal on April 6, 1892. This dessert became a popular choice after a customer requested the addition of chocolate sauce and a cherry as a substitution of some of the usual scoop of ice cream.
With the diverse range of flavors and varieties of ice cream available today, Vanilla stands out in both history and the present. Today we can enjoy this flavor from a variety of resources, and nothing beats homemade on a hot summer day!