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Cones and other containers

History notes that the first ever ice cream cone was produced in New York in 1896 by a chap called Italo Marchiony with a patent for his invention coming seven years later in 1903. However, legend has it that at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair an almost identical creation came about by pure chance. At that fair there was a Syrian vendor by the name of Ernest A. Hamwi. He was there to sell zalabias, a Middle-Eastern type of fried dough. Next door to Hamwi, there was an ice cream vendor who was doing a roaring trade that day. So much so, that his neighbour ran out of dishes to serve the ice cream to his customers. Hamwi spotted the answer and wasted no time in rolling out one of his waffle-like creations and shaping it into a cone, so that it might contain the ice cream. He handed it to his neighbour and, sure enough, it housed a scoop of the ice cream perfectly. It proved a hit with the customers that day and went on to become the much-loved staple of frozen dessert world that we know today.


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That story got me thinking about how strange a thing an edible food container is. There are similar wonderful legneds and lore behind other containers which house food but which themselves can be eaten, from the Cornish pasty to that most ubiquitous of container devices: the sandwich. The pasty’s crimped edge fashioned as a handle with which Cornish miners were able to hold their pastry-wrapped meal of meat and potato, discarding the crust so as not to potentially consume the arsenic-laced traces of where their tin-mining fingers had been. The sandwich was said to have been invented by The Earl of Sandwich, who took to instructing his valet to bring to him pieces of meat tucked between two slices of bread. This handheld snack enabled the Earl to eat without having to break from the card games he so loved, without fear of encumbrance from cutlery or utensil or the annoyance of having his cards and table spoiled with the grease from his meat.


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How true the origins of all these food containers are, the course of food history has seen them become every bit as inextricably linked and desirable a part of the eating experience as the contents themselves! Here are a few of the containers that I shot for Benjamin Vear’s Ice Cream and Other Frozen Desserts book. They look good enough to eat on their own, don’t they…?


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