When was the last time you ate an ice cream cone? Hopefully for you, the answer is “today.” Now, when was the last time you thought about how ice cream cones came to be? Chances are, not that recently. According to food historians, the first printed reference to ice cream cones dates back to a 19th-century cookbook. But while creation theories abound, there’s no real consensus on how the cone was invented. Some say its origins are in England, some say France, some say the U.S. Still, it seems that historians do agree on one thing: the cone owes a lot of its popularity to its exposure at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
In our modern world, we hear about new mouthwatering desserts practically every day (I’m looking at you, Dominique Ansel). But in 1904, news didn’t spread as quickly or as widely. And so events like World’s Fairs played a rather important part in spreading the word about inventions and ideas. Fairs drew large crowds of people from all over the world, as well as flocks of journalists. They were the perfect place to introduce the world to something new.
So, let’s get back to the cone “creation myth,” shall we? One of the most popular stories says that a World’s Fair ice cream vendor ran out of dishes for his ice cream. In a bout of quick thinking, the pastry vendor at the next booth over rolled up some of his crisp cookies into a cones and offered them up as ice cream holders. And like that, the ice cream cone was born.
For the moment, let’s suspend any opposing theories and just accept this St. Louis story as the truth. Because regardless of whether the vendor truly “invented” the cone, the story teaches us an important lesson: sometimes the best ideas come from sharp, real-time thinking. Today, something like what we see in the cone “creation myth” would be considered a partnership, and before the partners could make it happen, their respective companies would probably make them sign a lot of legal paperwork. But in 1904, it was simply an immediate solution to an immediate problem.
I want the St. Louis story to be true, even if I know that some form of cone existed well before 1904. In all fairness, that pastry vendor at the Fair had likely never heard of ice cream cones, even if they were already in use in other parts of the world- it’s not like he had Buzzfeed sending him lists of “exciting new desserts” on a daily basis. So whether or not he was truly the first to do it, I think we owe him a round of applause for his quick and creative problem-solving. Given that I have a sweet spot for ice cream, St. Louis AND World’s Fairs– I think it’s only fair that I have an ice cream cone to celebrate this fortuitous event, don’t you?
On a related note: the last time I posted a list of favorite ice cream companies, it was really only a partial list- and readers noticed some of their favorites were missing. So here is round 2! Let me know if you have recommendations for other places I need to try.
Morelli’s: an Atlanta institution with delicious, creamy flavors
Jeni’s: this stuff is expensive, but also inventive and delicious
Graeter’s: get the black raspberry chocolate chip, you’ll thank me later
Creamistry : liquid nitrogen-based ice cream, gets extra points for the wow factor
Xanath: they get a lot of kudos for using organic ingredients, but I’m there for flavors like fig and saffron
Three Twins : (pro tip: they have a kiosk in the Delta terminal at SFO)
Bobtail: their flavors include lots of mix-ins
Paciugo: there’s a reason some of the flavors sell out every day
Laura Secord: they don’t seem to have it anymore, but this is where I had my first ever orange-chocolate ice cream (named “Tiger Tiger,” which is adorable)