After a long day of productivity, running errands or a full days work, a well-deserved beverage is in order, that is unless you’re in Europe. Whereas in America, ice is abundantly available, other countries don’t follow the same customs.
It is an American process for ice to be found everywhere and in abundant amounts. Ice machines installed in hotels, coolers filled with cold beverages for the 4th of July picnics, tall drinks filled to the brim at gas stations, just to name a few. As Heidi Julavits writes, “The American need for ice speaks to our obsession with refrigeration as an antidote to death, and to our heightened terror of perilous bacteria and spoiling food.”
But in other countries, it is extremely rare to find supermarket freezers stocked with bags of ice. It makes perfect sense to people who are used to doing things a certain way per tradition. If you ask for ice at a restaurant, you will still get some but not nearly as much as you’re accustomed to.
Back in the day, ice was a precious luxury in Europe. It was cut out of ponds in New England in the winter and stored in barns packed with sawdust to keep it frozen. Later, it was transported by wagon to nearby ports and loaded onto ships. The ships then sailed across stormy waters of the North Atlantic, unloaded at warehouses and later distributed to luxury establishments. It was seen as a luxury of the wealthy and couldn’t be wasted.
Several reasons might explain why there is hardly any ice served in Europe. One reason is that ice is usually made from tap water, and it’s hard to trust tap water as safe for drinking. The other is that it seems like a rip off. Good money was spent on basically a diluted beverage, leaving behind a whole bunch of ice cubes. For some tiny restaurants lacking space, the high cost of electricity to run the ice machines doesn’t justify having to operate one.
So what do you do if you’re an American in Europe, it’s close to 100 degrees and you simply crave for a taste of home? You simply ask for some ice. There’s also the concept of still and mineral water options, but that’s another topic for another day.