Food Preservation and Storage

Before the introduction of mechanical refrigeration, ice houses were an important means of preserving food during the warm weather. The benefits of cold for preserving food had of course long been known. The Chinese harvested and stored ice more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ; the Greeks and Romans cooled their drinks with snow and the Romans even dug pits for the long’ term storage of snow.127 The practice of using ice to cool drinks was taken up again by the Italians and Spanish in the sixteenth century, followed by the Italian discovery of how to make water ices in the early seventeenth century. By the end of the century, ice cream had become popular among the upper classes in France and to a lesser extent in England, where the first published recipe for ice cream did not appear until 1718.128 The popularity of the new frozen and chilled desserts increased the demand for ice among the wealthy and that, in turn, spurred the construction of ice houses. According to Elizabeth David, King Charles II of England had an ice house in Greenwich by 1662; another was built in 1666–67 “when a ‘snow-well’ was installed at St. James’s Palace for the King’s brother, James, Duke of York.” The London ice house was sunk in the ground and thatched with straw and seems to have been modeled on those the Duke of York had seen while exiled abroad.129