The Rocky Road to an Ice Cream’s California Roots

The origins are a bit sketchy, but two paths to the creation of Rocky Road lead to Oakland, California.

As Golden State residents brace for another toasty summer, there’s no better time to scoop up ice scream by the gallon to keep cool. While we admit to enjoying this cool treat year round, there’s something nostalgically summery about a cone of your favorite flavor … be it strawberry, vanilla, mint chip or that old-fashioned favorite, Rocky Road.

Turns out that decadent blend of chocolate, marshmallow and nuts enjoys very Californian roots. Oakland to be specific. But who gets ultimate bragging rights depends of whom you ask. According to a piece published by Mental Floss, two companies boast that claim to fame.

“In 1906, William Dreyer came to the U.S. from Germany. After a time in New York, he moved to California to learn the art of making ice cream, and in 1921, he opened an ice cream shop in Visalia, California. By 1929, he had teamed up with Joseph Edy, a candy maker, to start an ice cream and candy company in Oakland, California. Dreyer reportedly used his wife’s sewing scissors to cut up pieces of marshmallow and walnuts, then added them to chocolate ice cream. Dreyer and Edy supposedly replaced the walnuts with almonds and dubbed the flavor Rocky Road, alluding to the October 1929 stock market crash’s tumultuous effect on the economy.”

While one story traces the origins to the Great Depression, another ice cream maker pinpoints creation to the late 19th century. “In 1894, Eldridge Seth Fenton founded Fentons Creamery, and according to Fentons, Eldridge Seth’s grandson, Melvin Fenton, is responsible for creating Rocky Road, as well as Swiss Milk Chocolate and Toasted Almond. Fentons Creamery is still around today; in addition to ice cream, it serves burgers, hot dogs, and salads. To further complicate matters, multiple sources claim that George Farren, a candy maker working at Fentons, is the true inventor of Rocky Road. Farren was friends with Dreyer and Edy, and that story goes that he blended a chocolate candy bar made with walnuts and marshmallows into ice cream, creating a Rocky Road flavor. Dreyer liked Farren’s idea and allegedly stole it, replacing the walnuts with almonds.”

Who to believe? We’ll leave that to the historians while we savor another scoop this season.

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