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
StephanieFrey/iStock via Getty Images

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.

The Disputed Origins of Publix’s Chicken Tender Subs

Josh Hallett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0
Josh Hallett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

After Popeyes released its new chicken sandwich last week, a heated battle broke out on Twitter over which fast food chain offers the best one. Favorites included Chick-fil-A, Wendy’s, and KFC, but the Publix chicken tender sub was mostly absent from the dialogue. Maybe it’s because Publix is a supermarket rather than a fast food restaurant, or maybe the southern chain is too specific to Florida and its neighboring states to warrant a national ranking.

Either way, the chicken tender sub is a cult culinary classic among Publix customers—there’s even an independently run website devoted to announcing when the subs are on sale (they aren’t right now), and affiliated Facebook and Twitter accounts with tens of thousands of followers. So whom do sub devotees have to thank for inventing the Publix food mashup from heaven? A Facebook user named Dave Charls says, “Me!,” but Publix begs to differ.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that in May of this year, a man named Dave Charls posted a message on the “Are Publix Chicken Tender Subs On Sale?” Facebook page recounting his origin story for the menu item, which allegedly took place in 1997 or 1998. At Charls explains it, he and his co-worker Kevin convinced their friend Philip, a deli worker at the Fleming Island Publix location, to assemble a sub with chicken tenders and ring it up as one item—something that deli workers had refused to do for Dave and Kevin in the past. According to Dave, Philip then convinced his manager to make it a special, publicized it via chalkboard sign, and the idea spread like hot sauce.

“You’re welcome,” Charls said. “It was actually Kevin’s idea and Philip brought it to life.”

Publix, however, told the Tampa Bay Times that its recorded documentation for a chicken tender sub recipe and procedure goes all the way back to 1992 or 1993. Based on that information, Publix spokesperson Brian West confirmed that Charls's heroic account of the origin is more fairytale than fact (though West, unfortunately, doesn’t have an equally thrilling origin story—or any story at all—with which to replace it).

Charls didn’t respond to a request from the Tampa Bay Times for comment, so we may never know how much of his claim is actually true. It’s possible, of course, that Publix’s 1992 (or 1993) chicken tender sub recipe hadn’t gained momentum by the time Kevin’s moment of culinary genius struck in 1997 (or 1998), and the lack of date specificity suggests that neither party knows exactly how it went down. What is incontrovertible, however, is the deliciousness of Publix's beloved sub sandwich.

"I'm just happy to live in the same timeline as this beautiful sandwich," says die-hard Pub Sub fan (and Mental Floss video producer/editor) Justin Dodd. “Copyright claims aside, it's truly a wonderful thing."

This London Pub Might Be the Most Ethical Bar in the World

Ridofranz/Getty Images
Ridofranz/Getty Images

Pub owner Randy Rampersad is doing his part for sustainability. In June, he opened the Green Vic—a play on the fictional Queen Vic pub in the soap opera EastEnders—in the East London neighborhood of Shoreditch. The Telegraph reports it’s aiming to be the world’s most ethical pub: Rampersad eschews plastic and paper straws and opts for gluten-free wheat “straws.” He sources the bar's 100 percent recycled toilet paper from green-minded company Who Gives a Crap, and the communal wooden tables are upcycled.

“I wanted to make the world a better place and run my own business, but I was waiting for that eureka moment,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. He discovered no one had done anything like this before.

There’s no meat on the menu—the food is totally vegan, healthy-ish pub grub. You can add CBD oil to the “chkn" bites appetizer, and the burgers are made from ingredients like soy, seaweed, and sweet potato. The beers are produced by ethical brewers, too: Toast Ale uses unsold loaves and crusts of bread; Good Things Brewing crafts its beer from 100 percent renewable energy; South Africa’s Afro Vegan Cider donates money to an organization that funds equal pay for female farmers; and Brewgooder donates to water projects.

In fact, everything the Green Vic does has charity in mind. “We don't care about the money, I’m planet first and profit after,” Rampersad told The Telegraph. Up to 80 percent of its profits will go to charitable causes, including local food banks. As for the staff, one in four are from marginalized groups. The Green Vic plans to operate as a three-month pop-up pub while scouting for longer term investment.

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