Ice Cream in a Penny Lick.
Philip loves his ice cream. He’s usually got at least two flavors in the freezer each week. Our family’s favorite frozen treat is Springfield’s “Andy’s Frozen Custard”, but we try to restrict our visits! Ice cream hasn’t always been available. Since the 1600’s, ice cream was a treat for those with money. The average person had not tasted the sweet confection. Then, a series of events converged in the mid-1800s and the lust for ice cream was born.
First, the burgeoning cities were beginning to be overrun with unemployed immigrants. Second, the hand-cranked ice cream machine was invented. And finally, the Glass Excise Tax in Great Britain was abolished.
Italian immigrants were moving into the cities like New York and London and they were unable to practice their typical trades. However, they did know how to make cold creamy treats. Together, with their culinary expertise, and a new invention of a hand-cranked machine, they took to the streets in specially designed carts to sell the cold treat during the summer months.
The cold creamy treat needed to be handed off to their customers, so a small inexpensive glass was manufactured. Glass was cheap to produce now that the excise tax had been abolished. The small “shot” glass had a thick base and a shallow inverted top. They were heavy and thick, but the actual dish was very small.
The street vendors used the little licking glasses to distribute their ice creams. They would dish a small amount of the confection into the glass. There were three sizes: a half-penny, a penny, and a two-penny. The “Penny Licks” contained only a small amount of ice cream, but due to the optical illusion of the thick glass, it looked like there was more. But for a small price, the customers didn’t complain.
Once the customer licked the penny lick clean, they returned the glass to the vendor, who would wipe the glass with a rag and fill the glass for the next customer. Ultimately, this was the downfall of the penny lick. For fifty years, the penny licks were used to serve ice cream in the cities and on the seaside, but by 1926, they were banned due to unhygienic cleaning practices. In England, they were outlawed due to a tuberculosis outbreak.
The newly popular waffle cone replaced the small penny lick dish, as the container of choice. The waffle cone was made popular by the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.
We purchased these two penny licks in England. They’re for sale at the store.
Maybe we could go to Andy’s more often, if, instead of a concrete, they offered penny licks!