Explaining why the multi-layer Neapolitan ice cream cream exists, and also why it’s never ever actually showed up on a room shuttle despite strong suggestions otherwise.

Filed under: astronaut ice cream, camper food, chocolate, freeze-dried, ice cream cream, italy, naples, neapolitan ice cream, pistachio, spumoni, strawberry, vanilla

Today in jajalger2018.org: putting three choices in a solitary container seems favor a really clever way to admit that civilization are really poor at comprising their minds. Possibly you want something plain-Jane—that’s what the vanilla is for. Or maybe you like having something that everyone loves together a flavor—that’s where the chocolate comes into play. However then you get guilty and decide it’s essential to eat other fruity. Fortunately, the strawberry odor is right there. This flavors, on your own, would certainly be great enough for most people, yet part feel compelled to have all three seasonings in one container, favor they’re eating your food in sections. Therefore why is Neapolitan ice cream a thing, and could it yes, really be better? Today’s jajalger2018.org has actually the scoop top top Neapolitan. — Ernie

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Neapolitan ice cream’s ranking amongst the “favorite ice cream cream flavors” in the united States, according to the international Dairy foods items Association. While when much much more popular, it’s to be out-shined by more modern-day flavors such as cookies n’ cream, chocolate chip cookie dough, and Moose Tracks—the last of which ns will fully admit is a longtime favorite of mine. (Unrelated side note: as I to be researching this story, ns learned the the machines of Moose Tracks ice cream cream now sell a Moose tracks candle, i beg your pardon is basically the just novelty candle i personally care about, and one the Rusty from this particular day in Tabs doesn’t know what to do with.)


Neapolitan ice cream, in sandwich form. (Rakka/Flickr)

Why is it called Neapolitan ice cream? and why does Neapolitan ice cream cream even exist? long story short: We needed to Americanize miscellaneous better

First off, if friend guessed Neapolitan ice cream was an alleged to represent a flag of some kind, simply know the the metaphor was when there, but the American desire for cacao kind of ruined it. (Brown isn’t precisely a typical flag color.)

And the ice cream cream flavor, suitably, is strong regional: Neapolitan ice cream, additionally known together harlequin ice cream, is rooted in a regional treat the does in reality have ties to the Italian city the Naples. It showed up in the united States beginning around the moment of the polite War, v the an initial newspaper reference showing up in a Brooklyn newspaper in 1868.

You could be disappointed to find out however, that Americans got a copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy facsimile that the original. The reason is the Neapolitan ice cream reflects a very simplified variation of a lot more complex food v an Italian heritage.


An instance of spumoni, which inspired Neapolitan ice cream cream. (bionicgrrl/Flickr)

That food, spumoni, is a kind of gelato the combines much more diverse flavors—cherry, pistachio, almond, vanilla or chocolate—into a multi-part ice cream cream dish the is intended come be consumed together, quite than apart. However rather than just being a mixture of various kinds of ice cream, it often additionally adds more complex elements, such as fruit, nuts, and also whipped cream, to create a much more in-depth taste. (It’s likewise not technically thought about ice cream, but semifreddo, or a frozen mousse.) and also while there are much more traditional approaches, there’s many room come customize and also diversify the flavor.

“Creating spumoni is favor creating any ice cream,” chief Cesare Cassella that the international Culinary facility told Bon Appetit in 2014. “You placed together spices that you like, and also then you part it. Really you have the right to fantasize about the seasonings you would favor to try together and change it with the season.”

Lezza, a Chicago-area agency that has specialized in spumoni for much more than a century, provides a an excellent example of what spumoni deserve to be—and its roots in the city have the right to be straight traced come a single individual, Salvatore Lezza. Lezza left his aboriginal Nola, Italy—not much from Naples—in 1905 and found himself in Chicago with minimal belongings. But he soon married Lucia Ferrara, whose family members owned a Chicago-area confectioner, and soon enough they to be working with each other on a family business that made spumoni that bedrock.

Speaking to Chicago Sun-Times journalist Neil Steinberg, longtime firm head Ed Lezza Sr. Defined his spumoni together such: “Spumoni have to be sliced. You slice it, you have all five features in every slice.”

It sound amazing, however someone felt that America wasn’t ready for this rush of flavors and gave us the weak stuff instead. It made the a fit for settings like Neapolitan ice cream sandwiches, but it’s definitely not in its pure form.

Going earlier to the flag thing, if Neapolitan ice cream had actually stuck with, say, pistachio instead of chocolate, then the whole flag metaphor would have actually worked. Yet chocolate won, because chocolate is chocolate, and chocolate dominates the sweet-tooth diet.

The year the procedure of freeze-drying was discovered by German researcher Richard Altmann, who emerged the procedure when trying come come up v a method to analysis the nature of tissues (he to be a histologist, who dedicated in the study of tissues). The procedure quickly came to be known for foods, with its best-known use, in immediate coffee, emerging after people War II—a duration in which much exploring with freeze-drying took place.


Astronaut ice cream, a form of ice cream cream because that which the ice component is type of a misnomer. (Ruth Hartnup/Flickr)

Much prefer the brittle problem itself, the ide of “astronaut ice cream”—often offered in Neapolitan form—has completely been busted

One of the an essential sources whereby one could run right into Neapolitan ice cream external of the frozen ar of the grocery save is in freeze-dried form.

Often, this type of ice cream cream is dubbed “astronaut” ice cream, in referral to the truth that it was initially designed because that the U.S. An are mission.

The trouble is, astronaut ice cream didn’t really acquire its huge moment in space. That was among many types of food that was emerged for the U.S. Room program by the Whirlpool corporation, which placed its Life Support division on the case. Whirlpool to be going stunner with initiatives to freeze-dry the liquids the end of food for this reason they might be offered in space, as well as to style receptacles that might easily store the purpose-built food.

A 1969 post from the corporation’s local paper, The Herald-Press the St. Joseph, Michigan, laid the end what the agency did—putting with each other bacon, coffee, orange drinks, dried fruits, and also candy in a kind that might survive without many of the necessary elements needed for enjoyment that these things on Earth—that is, the shape, the lack of consistency, and also the weight produced by every one of the liquids.

“Space food should be light-weight and or compressed because of weight and room limitations board the spacecraft,” the post explains. “The food needs to be stored there is no refrigeration and handled and eaten when weightless. Rehydratable foods require a particular amount the water to knead the mixture into an edible meal. It should be caloric spread by about 17 percent protein; 32 percent fats and 51 percent carbohydrates; short in crude oil fiber; and also resemble the color, flavor, and texture that freshly prepared food.”

One point the article does not mention is ice cream cream.

But ice cream cream to be something worked on, v rumors the it showing up on the 1968 Apollo 7 mission, according to a NASA push kit. And an linked Press post does definitively cite that vanilla ice cream cream was an alternative on the menu for the flight:

The Apollo 7 menu looks as varied as a little restaurant’s: beef stew, barbecued beef, creamed chicken, turkey, cheese sandwiches, shrimp cocktail, corn chowder, chocolate pudding, vanilla ice cream cream, orange juice, tea, coffee, etc.

Yet the food itself would be unrecognizable to the ordinary diner. The is cooked, freeze-dried, it is provided or compressed, coated v gelatin and also sawed right into standard sizes.

Problem is, the astronauts most likely didn’t actually end up utilizing it. According to Vox, which actually visited the trouble of interviewing Apollo 7’s just surviving astronaut, Walt Cunningham, around the gift-shop delicacy. Per Cunningham, “We never had that stuff.”


Examples of actual food eaten in space. (via nationwide Archives)

Now to it is in clear, Whirlpool wasn’t alone in efforts to help bring the amenities the Western civilization into orbit. The national Archives explains efforts by other companies, including Pillsbury and Westinghouse, to help put necessary elements into space. Pillsbury, favor Whirlpool, was also focused on the food.

That food needed to carry out a couple of things: stop crumbs, due to the fact that crumbs space dangerous in zero gravity; avoid farming bacteria, since who desires to give an astronaut a room infection; and also be straightforward to manage and dispose of.

The difficulty with freeze-dried ice cream, beyond being a poor room-temperature facsimile that a food the literally has ice in its name? just put, it did not make it through the rest test.

Perhaps because that this reason, Whirlpool is careful not to celebrate the freeze-dried ingredient that’s often connected with space; in a 2018 tool post, the agency celebrated the kitchenette system it developed for NASA astronauts, and made a allude of celebrating just how this mechanism eventually enabled for “the planet’s an initial frozen, non-freeze-dried ice cream.” Yes, astronauts eat typical ice cream in space. What did friend think castle did?!?

But what around the stuff in gift stores? Well, it turns out that it was a gimmick created by American out Products, a firm that specialization in freeze-dried backpacker food. Every Serious Eats, the this firm founder to be contacted through the Goddard air and an are Museum in the so late ’70s and asked to develop the product, which had actually been claimed to it is in in space.

So why was it so regularly a Neapolitan flavor? Well, it is the odor Ron Smith’s company tried first.

“It was half a gallon of Neapolitan ice cream cream the you would buy in the store,” the told the outlet. “It to be frozen solid, and also then reduced with a bandsaw, if you can believe it.”

The result is that this company, well-known for marketing camping foods, developed an inexplicable line of commodities called Astronaut Foods, which aren’t actually foodstuffs made for astronauts, but foods produced tourists.

To put it another way, if you’re eating freeze-dried ice cream (including in Neapolitan ice cream sandwich form), you’re eat camper food, no astronaut food … also though, in practice, the two types are rather similar.

“If I can eat every little thing I wanted every day ns would have actually Domino’s Pizza with pasta carbonara inside every slice. Ns so glad you inquiry this. And, in ~ night, i would have actually Neapolitan ice cream till I feel absolutely toxic. And also then I would certainly drift off, telling myself, ‘It’s gonna be okay. The gonna be okay. She gonna train in the morning.’”

— Robert Downey, Jr., in a 2010 interview through Vanity Fair, ~ above what his food weaknesses are. At the time, Downey was still only a couple of movies into his long background in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, therefore he most likely couldn’t actually eat food prefer this ~ above a regular basis.

Let’s be ethical with ourself here. In a world where Ben & Jerry’s exist to give us excellent pop-culture themed ice creams follow me the lines of Netflix and Chill’d and also Phish Food, and also consumer palettes have broadened to in reality eating legit gelato for their frozen dairy products snack, Neapolitan isn’t exactly the most amazing ice cream flavor in the people anymore. Us mix seasonings all the time now! No reason to separation them up no longer or to Americanize spumoni.


So simple, it sort of works. (avlxyz/Flickr)

But on the various other hand, there is something to like around the simplicity of the compartmentalization. That three reasonably plain-Jane flavors, nothing less, nothing more. It’s not spumoni, yet had points played the end a little different, possibly an astronaut could have tried the on a mission at some point.

So no, it’s about as Italian as general Tso’s is Chinese, however if we embrace it as a simplified byproduct of our weird melting pot that multiculturalism, the logic starts to make sense.

But still no making sense: Why we speak to it astronaut ice cream once it’s really just rebranded camper food.

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Correction: An earlier version that this post incorrectly declared Neil Steinberg’s name. Us regret the error.