If you scream for ice cream, you’ll be delighted to know that September 22 is National Ice Cream Cone Day.
Go ahead – have your treat and lick it too. I’m told that when a food item gets its own national day, its calories go directly into the person you feel needs them the most. As you enjoy your frozen handheld treat today, be sure to thank the inventor for this delicious creation. The only problem is – who will you thank?
The legend of the ice cream cone creator is rife with dispute and waffling accounts of who should be credited. The stories are as varied as the flavors of ice cream that fill these edible wafers. One fact not mired in controversy, however, is that people were first seen sporting the cone of fame at the 1904 World’s Fair, the result of an impromptu stop-gap measure to stave off angry ice cream-seekers who were turned away for lack of appropriate eating vessels. In those days, ice cream was served in glass bowls called “penny licks” which were returned to the vendor after customers were finished licking out the ice cream (I know, gross). When an ice cream vendor ran out of these bowls, would-be customers allegedly had epic meltdowns. That is, until Syrian immigrant Ernest Hamwi stepped in with a solution. He was stationed next to the penny lick-less vendor making waffle desserts called zalabia. Upon seeing the churning unrest, Hamwi rolled one of his wafer-like waffles into the shape of a cone – back then called a cornucopia – and gave it to the ice cream vendor. When the cone cooled, the vendor put some ice cream in it and history was made. Or so some say. Hamwi went on to create the Missouri Cone Company, which was sold to Nabisco in 1928. He has been credited by the International Association of Ice Cream Makers as being the official creator of the cone.
But not everyone agrees that his face belongs on a stamp.
Some ice cream historians (yes, these are real people) claim that certain French cookbooks in the 1800s included recipes and instructions on how to bake and roll a waffle-like treat and stuff it with a frozen pudding or cream. I tried to confirm this but it was all French to me.
If you ask the International Dairy Association, they will tell you that Italo Marchiony of New York City is the official creator. In 1896, this Italian ice cream vendor grew tired of people walking off with his glass licking bowls so he invented an edible ice cream cup-making machine for which he was granted a patent in 1903. Some experts believe an Englishman obtained a patent for his version of an cone machine the year before. Others claim the ice cream cone was invented in Turkey or Lebanon, but I’m pretty sure they’re confusing that with who invented lunchmeat. In fact, if you consult any treatise on the subject of cone invention, you will see that credit is given to a roster of international ice cream pioneers, the lineup of which reads like a sign-in sheet for the UN General Assembly.
The real reason experts have never been able to reach a consensus on this is that they only get so far in their discussions before their ice cream starts dripping profusely, forcing an abrupt cessation to the talks while everyone stops to lick ice cream off their arms. That’s when the ice cream headaches hit, freezing the part of the brain responsible for agreement and prohibiting the formation of coherent sentences – so even if they did all agree at some point, they’d never be able to verbalize it. And this is why we never get the scoop.
As the ice cream cone creator controversy drips on, one thing we can all agree on is that penny licks needed to go. In this day and age, nobody needs to be licking a bowl and returning it to the server unless they have four legs. The ice cream cone is a necessary staple of beach life, allowing us to take our handheld treat to the beach, the boardwalk or anywhere we want. Well, except high-end tee shirt shacks, where teenage store clerks are ready to pounce on anyone who even thinks of bringing food into the store. But other than that, have ice cream cone, will travel. Even the seagulls respect the cone – I’ve never seen one swoop down and take someone’s ice cream (fry lovers, you’re on your own on this one).*
As it turns out, we probably don’t really give a lick who invented this treat, as long as someone did. So while you’re enjoying your frozen treat-filled cornucopia today, be sure to thank ‘whoever’ created these delicious delights and have fun celebrating this important day!
* (While this statement was true at the time the original article was posted in 2017, this summer my nephew was dive-bombed by a flying beach rat who swooped its beak across the top of his cone. There was an actual beak track in his otherwise nicely formed ice cream scoop! Needless to say, he ditched it after that. I guess all creatures love the ice cream cone and who can blame them?)