Friday, October 2, 2009

Adventures of the Good Lil' Consumer

Once in a while someone in our house eats an ice cream cone, and down comes the ice cream cone box from the cupboard. The box is brightly colored and looks like a carnival, and it bears the name of the cone company in big happy letters---"JOY".

What has intrigued me about the Joy Cone Company is their claims on the box that they have been in the business of baking cones since 1918. So I had to check this out. Somehow, the idea of an independent food company surviving for generations by making ice cream cones just seemed too storybook and romantic. Could this really be true? I went to their web site and read their history. Apparently their company was started in 1918 by a Lebanese immigrant shortly after the World's Fair gave everyone the idea of putting ice cream in a waffle cone. They have two plants in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, and Flagstaff, Arizona, and their company is still family-owned today.

What would it be like to work for the *Joy* Cone Company? Well, their website states: "We offer flexible work hours which enable our employees to reconcile their personal schedules with our production schedules. The results have been greater efficiency and happier employees." I have to say, it sure makes those ice cream cones go down easier, knowing they were produced by happy laborers. Not that getting them down was much of a problem.

The web site also says that they have developed their own cone ovens, which are built in their plant, and they use a "time-tested family recipe" that has been passed down from one generation to the next. Sheesh. Can this company possibly get any more adorable? Do such companies really still exist in America today? They are making me hungry for their ice cream cones!

But the most interesting thing on their web site was the history of how the ice cream cone became a nationwide craze. I'd read before that the ice cream cone was "invented" at the World's Fair, but here is the story in a little more detail---from the Joy Cone Company web site:

While it is generally acknowledged that ice cream street vendors (hokey-pokey vendors) in New York City were selling different types of ice cream cones as early as the 1890’s, the ice cream cone’s official invention and immediate rise to popularity happened at the St Louis 1904 World’s Fair. As such, 1904 is the “official” birth year of the ice cream cone.

At the Fair, the stories surrounding the invention of the cone are many and involve several different vendors at the fair, including immigrants from Lebanon/Syria and Turkey. However, the IAICM (International Association of Ice Cream Manufacturers) proclaims the story of Ernest A Hamwi, a Syrian immigrant, to be the strongest candidate for the title of official inventor of the ice cream cone.

Mr Hamwi was a pastry vendor at the Fair, selling “zalabia”, a crisp, sugary, warm waffle made over an open fire in a waffle iron. His stand was next to one of the 50 ice cream vendors at the Fair. Mr Hamwi took his waffles, while still warm and pliable, and, wrapping them into the shape of a cone, gave them to the next-door ice cream vendor who filled them with ice cream. The success of this wonderful treat was immediate. People called them World’s Fair Cornucopias.
By the close of the Fair, the pastry vendors and ice cream vendors were collaborating on this delicious treat, and the thrilled Fair-goers took the idea home with them to all parts of the country and the world.

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