No matter what your dessert preference is, we bet you like ice cream. In the United States, kids are hypnotized by the carefree jingle of the ice cream man’s truck, and as adults, we wait in line for hours at artisanal ice cream parlors where flavors resemble dinner more than dessert. Ice cream has a fascinating backstory. Some hypothesize that Marco Polo brought back the recipe the Far East. Others believe Catherine de’ Medici introduced ice cream to France when she married King Henry II. It was served at their wedding feast in Florence and he was hooked from then on.
Even Alexander the Great was an ice cream fan — he liked his with honey and nectar. And during the Roman Empire, Caesar would send runners into the mountains for frozen snow that was then flavored with sugar syrups, fruits, and juices.
Regardless of its origins, it exists in more forms than one. No matter where you are in the world, you can find a version of ice cream that speaks to the country’s culture and culinary history.
Persian faloodeh is considered one of the first-known frozen desserts, dating back to 400 B.C. In Iran, ice cream is made with rose water. In Indonesia, dairy is discarded in favor of coconut milk.
Anyone who has ever had real Italian gelato can hardly stomach the supermarket ice cream sold in the States. The differences between American ice cream and Italian gelato may be slight, but they taste big. Gelato is made with milk, whereas in the U.S., the base is mostly cream. If you’ve ever had Italian milk, you know how good real, whole Italian milk can be. If you haven’t, book your ticket stat. Some gelato recipes even use skim milk for a lower milkfat content so that the flavors — like hazelnut, pistachio, frutta di bosco (blueberry) and more — are really pronounced. Also, gelato has less air whipped into it, so it is more like a hearty soft serve than “hard” ice cream.
Ready to go on an ice cream tour around the world? Here are your first 10 stops.
You’d think Alaska would be the place for the perfect ice cream cone. With below-freezing temps, why would anyone want it, thought? They do have a version of it, though, and it’s called akutaq, or Eskimo ice cream. It’s traditionally made with animal fat from seals, moose, and caribou, but modern recipes appreciate the invention of supermarket lard like Crisco. Seasonal toppings like salmonberries are still added, though.
Leave it to the French to turn something truly decadent into an over-the-top indulgence that will change your world. Foie gras ice cream is frozen duck liver turned into custard with wine, sugar, egg yolks, butter, and cream. You’ll most likely find it in sandwich form between two freshly baked, soft gingerbread cookies.