Sunday, April 6, 2008

Apple #309: Popsicles

How do you follow up an entry on Iggy Pop? What could possibly compete? Anything that tried in any way to be half as hip or edgy or anything else would seem weak as water by comparison. So the only thing to do, thought I, was to go the other way. As Iggy himself has done, go commercial. Go cute. And the first thing in that category that came to mind: Popsicles.

From Iggy Pop to Popsicles, I guess there's something rational there. Right?

(Photo from Indianapolis Soft Water Service)

  • Frozen desserts made with ice and flavoring are actually very old.
    • The Romans are known to have brought ice down from the mountains, crushed it, and flavored it.
    • The Chinese also made various forms of frozen ices, sherbets, and sorbets. Marco Polo wrote home about them when he visited Kublai Khan in the late 1200s.
The Polo brothers writing to Pope Gregory X all about the Popsicles they'd had in China.
(Image from Wikipedia)

  • But the first Popsicle as we know it was made by an 11 year-old boy named Frank.
  • In 1905, Frank left a cup of water with powdered soda and a stick in it outside on his porch. It froze that night, and the next day he found his soda water frozen with a stick in it.
  • He brought it to school, showed his friends, and called it the Epsicle (his last name was Epperson).
  • That might have been the end of it, but 18 years later, when he was 29 and running a lemonade stand at an amusement park in California, he looked at the lemonade he was selling, remembered his Epsicle, and decided to make more Epsicles, but out of lemonade.
  • At the suggestion of a friend, he used six-inch glass test tubes for molds, and he since he couldn't depend on freezing nights, he made a machine that would freeze the lemonade in the tubes and stamp his name on the stick.

These are my favorites. Recently, they've been stamping jokes on the sticks. Here is one example: "What did the dentist give to the marching band? A tuba toothpaste."
(Photo from Matt, Amanda & Jacob)

  • Frank's own children asked him for the frozen treats he had made, but instead of asking for "one of Dad's Epsicles," they asked for "Pop's 'sicle." So he changed the name to Popsicles.
  • The sticks were made of birch wood, and he sold his Popsicles for 5 cents each. He introduced his Popsicles at a fireman's ball, and they were a sensation.
  • He patented his frozen confection in 1924 and a year later, sold the rights to the brand name Popsicle to a New York company called Joe Lowe. He later wished he hadn't, but because he was a struggling inventor, he and his family needed the money at the time. Three years later, Lowe's had sold 60 million Popsicles.

The story goes that Frank also helped conceptualize the Fudgsicle.
(Photo from Serious Eats)

  • Not long after this, the twin Popsicle was invented. This was during the Great Depression, and the idea was that two children could share one Popsicle for the same nickel.
  • With the advent of home refrigeration and freezers, Popsicles only became more popular. Ownership of the Popsicle brand changed hands several times between the 1950s and the 1990s.
  • Today, the Popsicle brand is owned by Unilever, a giant corporation in the UK. Its subsidiary, the Good Humor-Breyers Company, is whose name is on the box.
  • Somewhere on every box of Popsicles is the phrase "quiescently frozen confection." This isn't just a delightful little phrase, it's actually a specific freezing process. Ice cream and other frozen treats are stirred or agitated while being frozen. Not Popsicles. They are poured into a mold and allowed to freeze in a state of rest, or quiescently.
  • So that the flavor doesn't separate from the water, Popsicle-makers add some stabilizers and flavoring that won't separate. It's because of these extras that when Popsicles start to melt they don't just get all runny, they get sort of slushy first.

Apparently, the three types of chocolate Fudgsicles is new and currently available. But why does everybody insist on including the pretender white-chocolate with the far superior dark chocolate? It's like they think you have to suffer for your dark chocolate.

  • Popsicles are now made in over 30 flavors.
  • The most popular flavor, holding its top spot for several years, is orange.

This boy is enjoying his very first orange Popsicle
(Photo from Nylin-Ballard's public gallery)

Oh, and P.S. I also updated my entries on Perdera Wine and Carole King.

Popsicle The Original Brand, Popsicle(R) History
Lemelson-MIT Program, Inventor of the Week, Frank Epperson, Popsicle(TM)
The Kids Hall of Fame, Still More 11-Year-Old Inductees, Frank Epperson
Frank Epperson, 89, Inventor of Popsicle, Dies in California,
The New York Times, October 27, 1983
Food Reference, Trivia, Popsicles
How Products are Made, Popsicle
Howstuffworks, Why is a Popsicle called a quiescently frozen confection?

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