Happy National Ice Cream Sandwich Day! Yes, with seemingly every other food product having its own “holiday,” ice cream sandwiches have one too.
But as you enjoy your frozen confection, you might wonder where it came from. Who first had the idea of putting a wedge of ice cream between two chocolate cookies to make it easier to eat?
Like most food products (with the notable exceptions of Buffalo wings and nachos), the origin story is somewhat murky.
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There are records of pushcart vendors selling slabs of ice cream between pieces of paper in the 1890s. Noted food historian Jeri Quinzio told The Boston Globe that these early creations were called “hokey pokeys” and sold for the princely price of a penny. They were an instant hit, with people of all classes lining up to get their “sandwich.”
Sponge cake got its turn as the “bread” of the ice cream sandwich, according to Food Network, but the creation was too fragile and became a true disaster if the ice cream began to melt. The next natural step was some sort of cracker. Graham crackers were tried, according to culinary anthropologist Deb Duchon, and the current concept of ice cream sandwiches certainly doesn’t stray far from that.
However, the ice cream sandwich in its current form, vanilla ice cream between two chocolate cookies, traces its history to a vendor named Jerry Newberg, who sold the treats at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Field during baseball games starting in 1945. That’s according to Newberg himself, although impartial third-party evidence to prove his claims has yet to surface.
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When it comes to that natural offshoot of the ice cream sandwich, the chipwich — with two chocolate-chip cookies serving as the “bread” for the sandwich — the history is somewhat clearer.
Richard LaMotta first marketed the chipwich in 1978 in New York City. According to Food Network, the only recorded prior effort at using cookies took place 50 years earlier, when a San Francisco ice cream vendor put ice cream between two oatmeal cookies, then dipped the whole creation in chocolate.