The Barely-Legal History of the Ice Cream Sundae

© Ryan Liebe.
By Annie Quigley Posted July 10, 2015

That seemingly-innocent ice cream sundae you're enjoying on a hot summer day? It may have been invented to skirt the law.

In this series, we reveal the secrets, histories and quirky bits of trivia behind your favorite foods.

That seemingly-innocent ice cream sundae you're enjoying on a hot summer day? It may have been invented to skirt the law.

While the exact history of the ice cream sundae is contested, one theory points to a crafty legal loophole. Blue laws are religious laws that once banned (and in some states continue to ban) certain activities on Sundays, from selling liquor to visiting a neighbor's house to "misbehavior" of any kind. One such law in the late 1800s forbade the sale of soda on the Sabbath. (Why soda was deemed so pernicious is not totally clear.) Seeking a substitute for the hugely-popular ice cream soda, crafty druggists at soda counters (in Cleveland, OH; Evanston, IL; Two Rivers, WI; Buffalo, NY; Ithaca, NY, or any number of other cities, depending on whom you ask) swapped out soda for syrup and created the ice cream sundae.

The dish was originally (and somewhat brazenly) called a "Sunday," but the spelling was soon changed to "sundae"—either out of religious deference or to expand the availability of the treat to other days of the week.

These days, we can slurp down sundaes—and ice cream sodas—whenever we please. Exercise your sundae freedom this summer with these cool and creamy recipes.

Related:
13 Best-Ever Sundae Toppings
The Best Homemade Ice Cream Recipes
11 Amazing Ice Cream Toppings

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