"But in the meantime for Elegance & Ease & Luxury ... I shall eat Ice & drink French wine, and be above Vulgar Economy." - Jane Austen, 1808, to her sister Cassandra
Recently, I mentioned the history of ice cream so I thought it would be interesting to talk about.
In the time of Jane Austen, ice cream was an expensive luxury (the direct opposite of the aforementioned Vulgar Economy) and a treat that had to be eaten as soon as it was served because it melted quickly.
And in 1820, the year of Richard Balfour's upcoming story, the place to enjoy cream ices was Gunter's Tea Shop in Mayfair. Members of the haut ton went there not only to enjoy frozen treats, but to see and be seen. In addition, it would seem that Gunter's offered a catering service to private homes for parties of the wealthy and elite.
I disappeared down the rabbit hole of cream ice research because I thought it would make a fun outing for a scandalous earl attempting to court an interesting young miss after the horrible mistakes that led to his previous broken betrothal.
If Richard had taken Sophia to Gunter's they would have selected their cream ices from flavors such as chocolate, lavender, maple, Parmesan, Gruyere cheese, and bergamot.
Did I just write Parmesan? And Gruyere Cheese? Yuck?
No images of Gunter's exist but here is an unflattering James Gillray cartoon of a gluttonous soldier eating ices in a confectioner’s shop (published in 1797). Note all the discarded serving cups on the counter!