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Why Ice Cream Parlors Were Once Considered Evil

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Chocolate chip cookie dough is probably the only sin you connect with ice cream parlors—after all, they’re associated with squeaky-clean, rated-G good times in a fresh-faced, olden-timey environment. But ice cream didn’t always have such a deliciously benign rep. In fact, at the turn of the 20th century, the ice cream parlor was regarded by many as a den of corruption, prostitution, and sin. 

There was New York, where a man testified to a senate committee in 1895 that he knew of several ice cream parlors that were “really houses of prostitution or disorderly houses.” But Chicago was really the center of the immoral ice cream epidemic—the city had so many problems in ice cream parlors that it passed a curfew law and even forbade the institutions from erecting “curtains, screens, or partitions of any kind that will serve to divide such places into compartments.” 

In 1911, the city’s vice committee published a report of its activities at ice cream parlors, which included nabbing gropers, flirts, and girls who told boys they “could be had.” But perhaps the most outrageous anti-ice cream parlor screed was published in a 481-page 1909 book called War on the White Slave Trade, in which the Illinois Vigilance Association tore the city’s taste for cool treats to shreds.

“One thing should be made very clear to the girl who comes up to the city,” the association warned, “and that is that the ordinary ice cream parlor is very likely to be a spider’s web for her entanglement.” They went on to describe how foreign-owned ice cream establishments were “recruiting stations” for prostitution, where “scores of girls have taken their first steps downward.”

Why ice cream parlors? Historian and folklorist Bill Ellis writes that ice cream wasn’t exactly seen as all-American in the early 1900s. Despite its adoption by Americans like Thomas Jefferson, the cold treat was associated with foreign tastes—tastes that were associated with the specter of “white slavery,” a dated term used to described sex trafficking, prostitution, and other kinds of sexual debauchery during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Fueled by fear of immigrants, changes in how men and women met and married, and consternation over the relative freedom of working women, the term became a major cause at the turn of the century, and a rallying cry for panicked parents and uptight reformers.

Ice cream parlors found themselves in the center of the controversy. Often foreign-owned, the establishments that tried to capitalize on growing leisure time and changing tastebuds found themselves in the crosshairs of moral panic. 

So did the scoop scare cause ice cream business to dwindle? Not exactly. In a 1914 edition of The International Confectioner, an ice cream expert noted that the industry was already so big it could compete with butter production. “The man who kills the goose that lays the golden egg always has and ever will be called a fool,” he wrote. So much for empty ice cream freezers in those dens of sweet, sweet sin.

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New Café Geared Towards Deaf Patrons Opens in Bogotá, Colombia
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At Sin Palabras Café Sordo, a trendy new watering hole in Bogotá, Colombia, patrons can dance, play games, enjoy exhibitions and performances, and grab a drink. But while ordering from the menu, they use their hands to communicate. Sin Palabras Café Sordo—which translates to No Words Deaf Café in English—is the South American nation’s first-ever bar designed to accommodate workers and customers with hearing impairments, according to The Nation.

Located in Bogotá's Chapinero neighborhood, Sin Palabras Café Sordo has both deaf servers and menus written in sign language. Customers sit at small tables and flick on a tiny lamp to signal a bartender over to order a drink. When patrons hit the dance floor, they’re greeted by large screens playing music videos with lyrics in sign language, and a pulsing floor that allows partiers to keep in time with the beat.

A trio of Bogotá entrepreneurs—Maria Fernanda Vanegas, Cristian Melo, and Jessica Mojica—teamed up to launch Sin Palabras Café Sordo in June 2017. None of these co-owners is deaf, but Vanegas told The Nation that their goal is “for us, people who can hear, to adapt to the deaf, and not the other way round, which is always the case.” Keeping with this theme, the bar has small cards to teach non-hearing-impaired customers some basic phrases in sign language. (Visitors who don’t know enough sign language to order off the menu can point to items they want, or write them down.)

Business has been so good for Sin Palabras Café Sordo that Vanegas and her co-owners might establish even more café locations around Colombia, according to Lonely Planet. That said, they aren’t the first ones to launch a business that caters to customers with hearing impairments: Granada, Nicaragua recently became home to Café de las Sonrisas (“Smiles Cafe”), a restaurant that employs only deaf cooks and servers, and similar establishments have opened in Canada and India. And in the U.S., there are restaurants like San Francisco’s deaf-owned and -operated pizzeria, Mozzeria.

[h/t The Nation]

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Live Smarter
This Smart Fridge Camera Will Warn You When Your Food Is Going Bad
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Food waste costs us a whole lot, both in terms of money and environmental impact. The USDA estimates that American families could each save about $1500 a year if they just ate all the food they bought. Sure, you could eat ice cream made of food waste from your local farmers market, but a more effective solution would be to cut back on the amount of food you personally waste every week.

A smart fridge can help, and you don’t have to buy an entirely new appliance to get one, according to Inhabitat. Smarter’s FridgeCam turns any refrigerator into a smart appliance, and all for just $127. Smarter, a British company that also makes smart teakettles and coffeemakers that hook up to your phone, designed the wireless FridgeCam to fit into any fridge.

A product shot shows a circular white smart camera against a white background.
Smarter

Once installed, you can peer inside your fridge from your phone, no matter where you are. (Which saves energy, too.) You can set the app to ping you when it senses you’re near a convenience store or grocery store to remind you to pick something up, or you can set it to autopopulate an online shopping cart of necessities.

In addition to letting you see your food with your own eyes, the camera tracks expiration dates in order to remind you when it's time to buy more milk and what food needs to be eaten ASAP. The Smarter Chef feature even suggests recipes based on what you have at home, including the stuff that you’ll need to throw out if you don’t use it up soon.

It’s unclear exactly how the camera tracks expiration dates, since presumably it might be hard for a camera to see an expiration date listed on the bottom of a jar, for instance. You might have to scan or input them yourself. Either way, a single camera that costs less than $200 is a whole lot cheaper than buying a new fridge. A futuristic kitchen just became a whole lot more affordable.

The FridgeCam is available for pre-order here.

[h/t Inhabitat]

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