The History of the Baltimore Snowball
The snowball is one of my favorite summertime snacks of all time. A snowball is a very syrupy, cup (preferably styrofoam!) of finely shaved ice. One of the distinct features is the marshmallow topping, which is very important to enhance the experience. Snowballs are the quintessential summertime dessert for me and many others. Why then does nobody know what they are?
The story begins in the late 1800’s when ice became widely available to the average citizen. As huge carts of ice travelled through Maryland, the drivers would shave off some of the ice to give to children. The children then took the shavings home and quickly made flavorings for their new treats. During the 1920’s shaved and flavored ice was sold during plays when customers needed to cool off during a long and hot show.
The modern snowball has its roots in the Great Depression, when standardized syrups could be purchased instead of homemade ones. Because of the low cost of ice, snowballs could be purchased for just 2 cents. This was one of the only treats that people could afford, and thus snowballs became very popular. Another facet to the story is that setting up a snowball stand is easy, as is making the treats, and many people turned to snowball making to sustain themselves. After the Depression, snowballs stayed popular throughout the war, when ice cream was nowhere to be found. While US troops ate ice cream, everyday citizens ate snowballs as their main icy treat.
After the war, the snowball remained popular, and is relatively unchanged to this day. Because the snowball is such an amazing little ice clump, it does make you wonder why you can’t have one right now (unless you live in Baltimore)?