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Laura Weiss: July Fourth Ice Cream Politicking Abounds

It's an election year, which means that this July 4th many politicians -- including President Barack Obama and presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney -- will likely be found chomping on ice cream cones.

Elected officials love to be photographed eating the frosty dessert because it's a way for them to demonstrate their all-American bona fides.

Ice cream has been served at July 4th celebrations -- from barbecues, to picnics, to public celebrations -- since the founding of the republic. And politicians, starting with George Washington, have long favored the frosty dessert.

On July 4, 1799, hoards of New Yorkers flocked to Vauxhall Gardens, a popular pleasure garden where people went for refreshments and entertainment. On that particular Independence Day, liquor flowed freely. And ice cream was on offer. It was delicious. It was refreshing. It was the perfect food for cooling off during a sultry New York summer.

What's more, politicians' affinity for ice cream goes way back. There was George Washington who made and stored ice cream in ice houses at Mount Vernon, his Virginia plantation. He loved the stuff so much that one summer, while living in New York, then the nation's capital, he spent the princely sum of $200 on the treat.

Then, of course, there was Jefferson, who was so taken with the vanilla ice cream he sampled when he was ambassador to France, that when he came back home, he started making his own.

You can find Jefferson's recipe here. Or you can make some July 4th ice cream treats yourself:

Red, white and blue ice cream sandwiches: Vanilla, raspberry and blackberry ice cream, shortbread, Pop Rocks.

Red, white and blue ice cream cake: Strawberry and blueberry sorbet and candied lemon peel.

Laura B. Weiss is a journalist and the author of Ice Cream: A Global History (Reaktion Books, 2011). @foodandthings. www.foodandthings.com.


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