Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Modern Technology, Soft Serve, and Mrs. Thatcher

It was the stuff of urban legends: right after her death on April 8, 2013, the Internet was abuzz with stories on how former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher figured prominently in the invention of soft serve, ice cream that is much softer than the regular one due to the introduction of air while freezing. The stories related that while working for the British food conglomerate J. Lyons and Co in the late 1940s, Baroness Thatcher helped create a technique for adding air into ice cream, which eventually led to the invention of soft serve machines.

The story was pure conjecture, of course, as the invention of soft serve is attributed to either Tom Carvel or J.F. McCullogh, and happened in the 1930s in the U.S., long before Baroness Thatcher joined J. Lyons. In fact, the existence of soft serve is largely the result of advances in kitchen equipment technology. Soft serve can only be served directly from a special machine to avoid crystallization, unlike regular ice cream that can remain uncrystallized for a longer period after its manufacture.

Modern kitchen equipment not only brought the world soft-serve but also such things as designer coffee. This beverage, complete with fruit-flavored creams and chocolate mixes, can be prepared to your specification in just a matter of minutes. Such an innovation is also the reason you can now sample choco-chip cookies from certain popular brands in almost the exact same way they were made several decades ago.


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