Earlier this week, the New York Times ran a neat little photo feature on the merits of the ice cream sandwich. Ligaya Mishan’s piece opens with this lede on the origins of this long-time favorite:
The American ice cream sandwich was born in the Bowery district of Manhattan in the early 1900s, when a pushcart vendor slapped together skinny wafers and vanilla ice cream and handed them for a penny each to shoeshiners and stockbrokers alike.
The photos show some pretty fancy incarnations of the ice cream sandwich, at prices a lot higher than those you might recall from the corner store.
When my brother Jeff and I were kids, Mom usually brought home the Sealtest brand from the supermarket, and that was mighty fine for us. I always regarded the ice cream sandwich as being higher up on the frozen dessert food chain than the Klondike bar, Dreamsicle, and Fudgesicle options. It ranked a close second to the Drumsticks with ice cream, chocolate covering, and nuts plopped into a sugar cone, which were a little pricier and thus reserved for special occasions.
Even today, I much prefer the old-fashioned, unadorned, long rectangular ice cream sandwich with two chocolate wafers and vanilla ice cream. (For some reason, I’m less enamored of overstuffed ice cream sandwiches that are harder to manage.) However, I, too, have gone a bit upscale. My current ice cream sandwich of choice is Julie’s organic brand, which I’ll purchase by the box a couple of times a year from the City Feed & Supply store across the street from my home:
These little guys remind me of the Sealtest brand back in the day. They’re quite tasty, with healthier ingredients to boot.
Given the power of self-suggestion when it comes to goodies, I’ll probably pick up a box within the next few days. It is, after all, getting a tad warmer here in Boston, so I think I’ll celebrate with a nice a little treat.