Time Travel Kitchen

The First Ice Cream Sandwich (didn’t have Chocolate Wafers)

No Siren ever had a song as powerful as the chimes of an approaching Good Humor Truck, beckoning the children of the 1950’s and ‘60’s from their summer play.

My own brother, Billy, had the super-power of hearing the bells before anyone else in our family did. This set us off on the mad scramble for loose change, and our frantic yelling to my mother ‘the Ice Cream Man is here!’

Impatient neighborhood kids pedaled up the block on their banana seat bikes like their lives depended on it. The quest was on for a Chocolate Éclair or Strawberry Shortcake Bar.

I loved the Good Humor truck, too. The sound of the freezer opening and the cold air that made a cloud when it hit the outdoor heat was all part of the fun. On the other side of that metal door was my favorite — the ice cream sandwich - vanilla ice cream sitting perfectly between two chocolate wafers.

I also liked that you could hold it in its wrapper and it didn’t run all over your hand when it started to melt.

Apparently, we have a pushcart salesman in New York City to thank for this. In 1899 he had the idea to put a slab of vanilla ice cream between two graham crackers, wrap them up in paper and sell them for a penny. Busy New Yorkers loved them — you could eat them on the street and they kept your hands clean. It was so popular that in 1900 The New York Tribune did a story on this ingenious rectangular treat and it’s creator, an article I’m currently searching for in an archive.

Like so many origin stories, there are several competing versions and timelines. In 1928 a San Francisco ice cream vendor put a round of ice cream between two oatmeal cookies. By 1945, the chocolate wafer sandwich we know today was created and being sold in Pittsburgh at a baseball stadium. Carvel introduced the circular Flying Saucer Ice Cream Sandwich in 1951 shortly after Roswell and just in time for the space race. And Chipwich came along in 1978 with their ice cream chocolate chip cookie sandwich.

I stuck to the original and used Graham Crackers and Vanilla Ice Cream. Since we are approaching the unofficial final days of summer, I thought it would be nice to end with some ice cream.

The sandwiches take no time to put together. Soften the ice cream enough to spread (but not too soft) and then put between the crackers, wrap and immediately return to the freezer for at least an hour. Nice and easy over this long holiday weekend. Use whatever cookies or crackers and ice cream you like — I’m planning on chocolate cookies with pistachio ice cream for my weekend.

We are entering my favorite time of year for actual baking and I’m looking forward to sharing lots of vintage recipes and stories with you -- starting next Friday with doughnuts.

Thanks again for subscribing and have a wonderful weekend.

Jolene

photo: Jolene

Sources:

‘7 Things You Didn’t Know About Ice Cream Sandwiches’, J.Q. Louise for Forbes, 2019.

‘Who Made The First Ice Cream Sandwich? History is Murky’, J Scott Wilson, Nextstar Media Wire, 2021.

‘6 Things You Might Not Know About Ice Cream Sandwiches’ Garvin Pernia for Mental Floss, 2019.