Refrigeration: Ice

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

The preservative effects of cold were observed early, even if the reason was not understood. The Romans used to chill perishable foods by packing them in snow brought from the Alps, using straw to insulate the snow and keep it from melting both on the journey and in use. The icehouse is another ancient invention, developed in the Middle East, taken up in Renaissance Europe, and familiar in N. America until recently. ice is collected from lakes in winter, or from mountains, and stored in a heavily insulated building, usually sunk into the ground. With proper management there will still be some ice left by the time winter comes again. This ice was either deployed in the kitchen to cool individual dishes such as ice cream; or it might be distributed from a central point (in a large city, perhaps) to individual households to insert in their iceboxes, a primitive form of refrigerator.