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.

Why Do We Eat Candy on Halloween?

Jupiterimages/iStock via Getty Images
Jupiterimages/iStock via Getty Images

On October 31, hordes of children armed with Jack-o'-lantern-shaped buckets and pillow cases will take to the streets in search of sugar. Trick-or-treating for candy is synonymous with Halloween, but the tradition had to go through a centuries-long evolution to arrive at the place it is today. So how did the holiday become an opportunity for kids to get free sweets? You can blame pagans, Catholics, and candy companies.

Historians agree that a Celtic autumn festival called Samhain was the precursor to modern Halloween. Samhain was a time to celebrate the last harvest of the year and the approach of the winter season. It was also a festival for honoring the dead. One way Celtics may have appeased the spirits they believed still walked the Earth was by leaving treats on their doorsteps.

When Catholics infiltrated Ireland in the 1st century CE, they rebranded many pagan holidays to fit their religion. November 1 became the “feasts of All Saints and All Souls," and the day before it was dubbed "All-Hallows'-Eve." The new holidays looked a lot different from the original Celtic festival, but many traditions stuck around, including the practice of honoring the dead with food. The food of choice for Christians became "soul cakes," small pastries usually baked with expensive ingredients and spices like currants and saffron.

Instead of leaving them outside for passing ghosts, soul cakes were distributed to beggars who went door-to-door promising to pray for souls of the deceased in exchange for something to eat. Sometimes they wore costumes to honor the saints—something pagans originally did to avoid being harassed by evil spirits. The ritual, known as souling, is believed to have planted the seeds for modern-day trick-or-treating.

Souling didn't survive the holiday's migration from Europe to the United States. In America, the first Halloween celebrations were a way to mark the end-of-year harvest season, and the food that was served mainly consisted of homemade seasonal treats like caramel apples and mixed nuts. There were no soul cakes—or candies, for that matter—to be found.

It wasn't until the 1950s that trick-or-treating gained popularity in the U.S. Following the Great Depression and World War II, the suburbs were booming, and people were looking for excuses to have fun and get to know their neighbors. The old practice of souling was resurrected and made into an excuse for kids to dress up in costumes and roam their neighborhoods. Common trick-or-treat offerings included nuts, coins, and homemade baked goods ("treats" that most kids would turn their noses up at today).

That changed when the candy companies got their hands on the holiday. They had already convinced consumers that they needed candy on Christmas and Easter, and they were looking for an equally lucrative opportunity to market candy in the fall. The new practice of trick-or-treating was almost too good to be true. Manufacturers downsized candies into smaller, bite-sized packages and began marketing them as treats for Halloween. Adults were grateful to have a convenient alternative to baking, kids loved the sweet treats, and the candy companies made billions.

Today, it's hard to imagine Halloween without Skittles, chocolate bars, and the perennial candy corn debates. But when you're digging through a bag or bowl of Halloween candy this October, remember that you could have been having eating soul cakes instead.

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Make Your Own Mouthwatering Pizza With Tomatoes From Frank Pepe’s

eugenesergeev/iStock via Getty Images
eugenesergeev/iStock via Getty Images

If you live in a rural area, the hunt for a quality slice of pizza—especially at a late hour—can be enough to make you consider moving to a pizza capital like New York. But what if you had the secret ingredient for a perfect pie right in your own kitchen?

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Italiana, the iconic New Haven establishment recently crowned America’s best pizzeria, is selling cans of its hand-selected tomatoes that you can purchase online or at any of its locations across Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New York.

Like any good "secret" ingredient, the tomatoes that Frank Pepe’s chefs use in their critically acclaimed sauces are a little different than your regular grocery store pickings. Food & Wine reports that each year, Frank Pepe’s grandsons (now restaurant co-owners) conduct a blind taste test of several different tomato varieties harvested from farms in Naples, Italy, and decide which ones are worthy of being used in their pizza products. According to the pizzeria's website, “It’s not just a matter of taste, but of the tomatoes’ density, texture, and transition of flavor once they are cooked.”


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Of course, there’s more than one reason Frank Pepe’s pizzas are considered the gold standard in America. To achieve that famous “crisp, charred, chewy crust,” the pizzas are baked in a coal-fired oven rather than a wood-burning one. There’s also the fact that Frank Pepe and his ancestors have been perfecting the Neapolitan art of pizza-making for nearly a century (the pizzeria was founded in 1925). In other words: Don’t be disappointed if your first crack at a heavenly homemade pizza doesn’t come out exactly like the mouthwatering pictures on Frank Pepe’s website. Having said that, the magic of hand-chosen Naples tomatoes is sure to make your creation considerably better than any of its frozen, store-bought brethren.

You can order a pack of three cans of tomatoes for $10 here.

[h/t Food & Wine]

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