How long have the Greeks had a love affair with ice cream? How about since at least one hundred years before Alexander the Great?
In fact, ancient Greeks were attracted to “ices” as early as the fifth century BC.
In those years, ices were actually honey and fruit-flavored snow, and they were wildly popular among Greeks in Athens’ central market, spreading quickly throughout the Aegean world.
Alexander the Great, born in 356 BC, reportedly ate his share of ices while growing up as the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II. According to legends which have survived to this day, his favorite ice was flavored with honey and nectar.
Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, who was born in 460 BC, spoke well of this delicacy, encouraging his patients to eat ice “as it livens the life juices and increases the well-being.”
Greeks still love ice cream, put their spin on the frozen dessert
In modern times, Greeks have also sought to improve on ice cream, creating Pagoto Kaimaki, made from the resin of the mastic tree to deliver a chewy texture, and adding salepi, or orchid root, which delays the melting of the product.
Today in Greece, there is even an Olive Oil ice cream with figs, Pagoto Kataifi Chocolate ice cream, made from shredded filo dough, and Mavrodaphne Ice Cream, which is blended with Greek dessert wines.
Similar to this dessert are the unique fruit and mastic-flavored Spoon Sweets, once always given to visitors at people’s homes as part of everyday hospitality, and now popular outside of Greece as well.
Evga started the craze of ice cream on a stick in Greece in 1936, as they were the very first to make the delicious treat in that form in the country.
Generations upon generations of Greeks remember Evga while they were growing up as it is the company that changed ice cream altogether after being established in 1934 by the Souraka brothers, Greek-American immigrants to Athens.
By producing pasteurized cow’s milk, the brothers started the beginning of the economic revolution of the industrialization of the dairy industry in Greece.
Imagine how the streets flooded quickly with ice cream lovers, as in 1936, there were no refrigerated ice cream trucks cruising the streets. When the vendors passed out the frozen treat, they had to be sharp about it before the precious ice cream melted.
Back then, street vendors only had wheelbarrows filled with ice. Thus the profession of “pagotatzi” came about — ice cream vendors wearing a white apron and cap who traveled through the neighborhoods with their famous three-wheeled carts.
Of course, as modern technology advanced, ice cream has ended up in your supermarket freezer section or loaded into musical ice cream trucks. But the charm of the wooden carts has unfortunately been lost in that process.