Why don't Europeans put ice in their drinks? They lost the recipe.
Yesterday, I visited the drive-thru at McDonald's, ordering the iced coffee on special, $1 for a medium size. I looked at the cup. It was half-filled with ice. There was so much ice that the ice remained when I returned to the car after an hour-long shopping trip.
I spent this past weekend in New York with my daughter and Brazilian son-in-law. After a day walking in the city with temperatures in the 80s, I was offered water to drink. It came to me room temperature with no ice. Later, examining the kitchen, I noticed the Brita water pitcher on the counter and not stored in the refrigerator. I also noticed an ice cube server on the door of the fridge, so I asked and learned that most Brazilians like their water at room temperature, absolutely no ice. So, I got to thinking.
Any American who has traveled abroad has probably wondered, "Where's the ice?" Why do the French, Irish, Russians, Brazilians, etc., serve beverages, including water, at room temperature? If I ask for ice, why do I get only one or two cute little cubes floating on the top? Why do Americans love ice so much, or love so much ice?
Oh busboy, maybe the Russians do not use ice because they are already surrounded by so much of it. Maybe the Brazilians are so hot the ice melts too fast to bother with it. Maybe the English are so lukewarm that the cold is too dramatic for them.
Well, let's look at some of the real possible reasons why most of the world does not use ice in drinks.
It's always been that way. OK, I'll buy that, but why?
Iced-cold drinks give one brain freeze or a headache. Well, very cold might do this if one drinks it very fast.
Cold certainly hurts if you have bad teeth.
Ice dilutes the drink. This makes sense. You pay for a soda or vodka, why thin it? Europeans are frugal and might feel that ice is taking up valuable real estate in the glass.
Ice is so cold it deadens the taste buds and takes the edge off the flavor. I've also heard this argument as a reason one doesn't order "on the rocks," but I'm not sure it's a good reason why nations don't use ice.
Cold water isn't good for you. We've all heard this argument and there is no definitive answer. The American College of Sports Medicine's stand on fluid replacement states that fluid needs to be cooler than ambient temperature, meaning between 59 and 72 degrees Farenheit. Colder fluids leave the stomach more quickly than warmer ones, allowing faster rehydration. During hot weather, when we tend to lose extra fluids, beverages in this temperature range will have a cooling effect. But some doctors suggest room-temperature or body-temperature water is better than cold water because the body has to expend energy to heat cold water to body temperature, resulting in some water loss. It sounds like a personal choice to me. I like my water cool, not arctic.
Many countries have never seen natural ice. Ice was, and maybe still is, in remote areas, unknown in warm countries, so of course they've never had ice-cold drinks. I remember going with my grandfather to get blocks of ice for his ice box. The ice had been cut from a frozen lake during winter and stored in a barn, buried in sawdust for use in the summertime - never a common activity in Brazil.
The ice might be contaminated. This is a very good reason. Traveling in developing countries, most of us know to not "drink the water." What is ice? It is water. Freezing does not kill harmful microorganisms. As my Russian friend questioned, "Who knows where the water for the ice came from?"
Technology in the United States has advanced faster than in other counties. Our ancestors had ice, and centuries ago we started using it to cool off. When we could, we developed a way to make ice.
Ice is expensive and difficult to maintain even with technology. If you aren't used to ice, why start using it? In our ownership of McDonald's, the ice machine was the fussiest. The larger it was, the harder and more expensive it was to maintain. Think about it - filtering the water, running the water all the time, cooling the water. I remember a bed and breakfast in Ireland that did not have a freezer. "Uses too much electricity" was the reason.
Bottom line, the use of ice is just what countries are accustomed to doing. If you aren't used to ice in drinks, why start? Americans use ice because we can and we always have. Our water is clean, electricity is plentiful and our lakes freeze over. Personally, I think our use of ice is a bit excessive, as is so much American.
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