My older sister is fond of telling the story of Dad driving the family to Laura Larson's Ice Cream emporium in Sugar House in the 1928 Chevrolet coup. I was small enough to be sitting on my sister's lap next to the door. After getting the ice cream, Dad entered the main street from the parking lot and "Old Lizzie's" door flew open, throwing me and my ice cream out of the car onto the street.
As my sister tells it, Dad was panic-stricken. He stopped quickly, leaped out of the driver's side and ran around to pick me up off the street. He was greatly relieved to discover that I was unhurt, as far as he could tell, but I was sobbing loudly because the ice cream was destroyed. When he realized the essence of the problem, he ran back to Larson's, bought a new cone, which ended my tears, and we drove home happily.Unfortunately for my cholesterol level, I have been an ice cream fanatic ever since. Sunday afternoons were traditionally noted for Mom's homemade ice cream, frozen by Dad in the hand-turned freezer. I used to love the first taste on the dasher. Later, when it was more firmly frozen, we could eat two or three bowls of the rapturous stuff, the very best with home-grown raspberries.
When I grew up I continued the tradition in my own family with less dedication, doing it with an electric freezer on occasional Monday evenings. Raspberry is still the undisputed title winner, but when homemade ice cream is available, well - any kind will do. Utahns may not be famous for cultivating vices, but most of them have always seemed hopelessly obsessed with ice cream.
I must confess that I have always considered the cone that often accompanies ice cream to be expendable, even though it is a long-established American tradition. "American History Illustrated" traced the cone's beginnings to the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. Allegedly, an ice cream vendor running out of dishes borrowed some waffles from a next-door waffle seller. The rolled waffle was a wonderful substitute container and ice cream history was made.
It is more difficult historically to trace the individuals involved, but the International Ice Cream Association thinks that Ernest A. Hamwi, a Syrian immigrant to St. Louis in 1903, was the originator of the ice cream cone. He introduced "a crisp, wafer-like pastry baked on a flat waffle iron and served with sugar or other sweets." This rolled "zalabia" was known as the "World's Fair Cornucopia." Afterward, Hamwi helped to develop the Cornucopia Waffle Co. and eventually the Missouri Cone Co.
Another version suggests that Abe Doumar, an immigrant from Lebanon, rolled a piece of flat Middle Eastern pita bread into a cone and then spooned jam into it. When Doumar saw the toasted waffles at the exposition, he told Hamwi about it and suggested that ice cream in the waffles would be wonderful. After the fair was over, Doumar took a waffle iron home to New Jersey and sold ice cream cones. Doumar's son Al still has his father's cone-making machine.
Still another version suggests that David Avayou, a Turk who owned ice cream shops in Atlantic City, N.J., invented the cone at the 1904 fair. Supposedly, he adapted the idea of selling ice cream in paper cones, which he had seen done in France.
A final version has a St. Louis woman taking the credit. A salesman named Charles Menches supposedly gave his woman friend an ice cream sandwich and a bouquet of flowers. When she found it impossible to hold both, she "took the biscuit from the top of the ice cream sandwich and wrapped it around the flowers as a makeshift vase. She took the other half of the cookie wafer and wrapped it around the ice cream, to keep it from dropping on her dress." Menches told Doumar, Doumar passed it on to Hamwi, etc.
It may be, as Paul Dickson says in his book, "The Great American Ice Cream Book" (1978), that because there were at least 50 ice cream stalls at the fair and just about as many waffle vendors that "historic marriages of waffle and ice cream occurred independently at several posts on the grounds."
Whichever way it was, ice cream has continued to delight consumers whatever the brand, while the cones have deteriorated markedly. If we could all savor an ice cream cone made from a fresh waffle toasted to perfection, we would accept nothing less. A raspberry mix-in would be even better.