As an Australian, I have always equated ice cream with summer. There’s nothing better than eating an ice cold Magnum in forty degree heat (Celsius, that is). And so when I would hear about people eating ice cream in the dead of winter (such as during the Ice Festival in Harbin, China) I would shudder at the thought. How could you eat something that cold when it’s below the temperature of your ice cream outside?
The purpose of ice creams after all, in my mind, was to cool you down. And wasn’t that the last thing on your mind in sub-zero?
But I never gave the subject too much thought until my recent visit to Helsinki, Finland.
It all started when I came across this store…
Yup, there’s an actual shop in Helsinki where you can go inside and watch them make a Magnum to your specifications. You say what type of chocolate your Magnum is dipped into (white, milk, or dark) and then choose three toppings from the sixteen options. After that you choose the type of chocolate that is drizzled over it and then you’re given the ice cream right there and then in a little tray to enjoy. You can see my personal creation at the beginning of this post.
As much as I loved so many things about my time in Helsinki, this was one of the highlights of my trip. I’ve been a Magnum tragic for so long that to actually make my own blew my mind.
Helsinki isn’t the only place where you can find one of these stores. Search for “Magnum Pleasure Store” in your country and see what comes up. (Sounds dodgy, I know, but Google tells me that’s what they’re called.)
Anyway, allow me to return to the point of this post. A little later in my visit to Helsinki (while I was still dreaming of the custom Magnum experience) I got talking with an American visitor and she described the Finns as “obsessed with ice cream.” Which got us talking about why it was that cold countries seemed to love ice cream so much when we always equated it with hot countries.
It took our Millennial brains a little while to come around to the perfectly logical conclusion.
Ice cream was a thing long before refrigerators. And in pre-refrigerator times the only place you could have an ice cream was in a cold country in the dead of winter.
Yeah, duh. Took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that, but then I do come from Australia and have only seen snow a couple of times in my whole life, so cut me some slack. 🙂
Once my brain clicked into that gear, I suddenly remembered reading one of the Little House on the Prairie books (I think it was in one of those, 1880’s Girl will correct me if I’m wrong) where she was snowed in and she was able to open a window, scoop up some snow, and make ice cream by hand. Ah, those were the days. What would Laura Ingalls Wilder have made of a Magnum Pleasure Store?
So it turns out that ice cream was not invented to cool down those of us who live in the baking heat (who knew?) but have simply come to fill that role thanks to the advent of refrigeration. Cold countries were on to the creamy goodness long before we desert dwellers were. (Or should that be dessert dwellers, as I could happily live in ice cream land. Couldn’t you?)