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Americans on Ice...

What is it with us and the almighty ice cube...I understand it is difficult to ask for and receive more than a motley few ice cubes in a drink in parts of Europe, Italy for example...why? On the other hand, I have a dining companion who always insists on a glass of ice on the side with her wine. Is she being an ugly American?
What's wrong with requesting some ice...Are we spoiled about ice, is it a lack of machinery in other parts of the world...what?

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  1. Hi Gutreactions, you are right that Americans seem to be addicted to ice in their drinks :) compared to the rest of the world.

    Coming from a (hitherto) non-ice culture, I think the reasons include: 1. Health beliefs about avoiding extremes of temperature, e.g. like shocking your insides with ice on a hot day (or moving between hot outside and a/c rooms), which is said to disturb the balance of your system and make you prone to falling ill (I don't recall a similar proscription of a hot drink on a cold day); 2. Disliking the taste of over-iced drinks; 3. The more ice in your glass, the less 'drink' you get for your money. That's why you won't get a glass full of ice and a few splashes of drink in most other areas of the world.

    I always ask for drinks with no ice in the US, and on snowy winter's days I always ask for a glass of hot water (preferably with a slice of lemon) instead of (shudder) ice water. I've always received it too.

    Is your friend pouring her wine onto the ice, or just alternating? Does she do this summer and winter?

    10 Replies
    1. re: Rasam

      As for your #1 reason - health beliefs - I do believe you're right. My father's (American and Occidental) parents lived and worked in Shanghai from the 1920s to the early 1940s (father and uncle were born there). Grandmother and Grandfather never allowed us grandchildren ice in their drinks due to it "disturbing the digestion." In fact, when we were old enough to understand, we weren't allowed anything to drink with dinner until more than halfway through dinner - same reason. We just had to deal with it. Whether or not it's true, I don't know. But it's what they had been taught by the Chinese, so it's the way they continued to live their lives.

      As an adult, as I recall, my father would make a vodka/tonic with two small ice cubes max (or one large cracked in half). So he was still influenced by how he grew up.

      As for me - I love my ice water. A restaurant at which I'm a regular always makes sure that a pitcher of ice water is put next to the pitcher of sangria for my friend and me, as we drink enough water to empty the pitcher as we're going through the sangria. :-)

      1. re: LindaWhit

        Yes, the Chinese really don't believe in eating or drinking foods that are cold (literally and energetically) as it will upset the digestion. A lot of people with GI issues find that drinking ice water (or anything too cold or raw) exacerbates their condition.

        If you notice in most Chinese restaurants (well, at least the authentic ones), people drink hot tea with their meals and will give you iced water if you ask for it -- unless you're non-Asian, where they may give you iced water to begin with.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          Pretty much the same with Korea. Bori cha (hot or room temp barley tea), warm or hot "rice water", or corn tea is traditionally served at meals.
          Although Korea has westernized quite a bit and you can now find plenty of iced or cold drinks available (including cold bori cha, which is just so wrong).
          In my former restaurant I always found it amusing that Americans would add sugar and ice to the bori cha.

          1. re: hannaone

            Yeah, a lot of Korean restaurants I go to offer iced water to both Koreans and non-Koreans from the get go. But occasionally I'll run into a place that just serves hot bori cha.

            It must be because I was born here, but I loved iced bori cha as a kid. And when my mom wasn't looking, I would spoon some sugar in it as well! I haven't had it in a long time, but it brings back nice childhood memories. But I can understand your sentiment as I feel that way when I see people add sweet and low to Chinese tea and ask for creamer!

            1. re: Miss Needle

              I saw that a lot with American born vs Korea born Koreans. Those who were born here tended to have a lot of cold drinks while their parents stuck with the traditional way.
              Korea born Koreans would almost always reject any cold drink in favor of hot bori cha or room temp water with their meal.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                when i was in Seoul in the mid 80s it was common for restaurants to have a pitcher of frozen bori cha (these were not fancy restaurants for westerners). it was a way to have a chilled drink and know that the water had been boiled.

          2. re: LindaWhit

            Ditto this re: Chinese and ice.

            My grandfather used to sip hot tea on 100 degree summer days, and work his way through big bowls of hot congee with napkin (for wiping sweat) in one hand and spoon (for eating) in the other.

            He lived to 95, while smoking 2 packs a day since the age of 15, never had a lick of health problems (much less throat or lung cancer), and died of natural causes ...

            Me? I'll probabaly croak in the next few minutes or so, as I just dusted off a big bowl of ice cream and a tall cold glass of apple cider.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              But DAMN you're gonna die with a happy tummy and a smile on your face! ;-)

            2. re: LindaWhit

              "my father would make a vodka/tonic with two small ice cubes max (or one large cracked in half). So he was still influenced by how he grew up"

              ...or maybe he just didn't want to water down his vodka. ;-)

              1. re: lynnlato

                Well, it was definitely that as well. ;-)

          3. I would venture to say it also has a lot to do with the level of industrialization in the US versus ex-US. Ice import/export was a brisk business even into the mid-twentieth century, but imported ice would have been costly due to tarriffs and shipping costs. With an effective railway system and no interstate tarriffs to contend with, the US was poised to be a center of interstate commerce in goods like ice. The rapid adoption of the refrigerator in the US probably further fueled our love of (easily accessible) ice which was still being imported within Europe in the 50s.

            1. While I'm not certain, I have had this conversation with a few European friends and it seems to be related to historical reference. My friends from Europe have said that it's because they were raised that way - space was at a premium so there was no room for gargantuan fridges and freezers with ice makers. This may not be accurate but it's certainly a reoccurring theme. In fact, when my European friends visit me here in the States, they are utterly convinced that my rather modest 2,000 sq foot house is a mansion!

              As to ice w/ wine question - I do the same thing here in the States. Room temperature is not quite the same a wine cellar temperature. I find that generally wines, especially by the glass are far to warm for my pleasure.

              1. I normally drink water without ice, because...

                A) I don't like things floating around in my glass, hitting me in the nose
                B) it's a matter of taste -- extreme temperatures numb your taste buds. It's the reason why little kids mash their ice cream into soup, then drink it.

                1. I'd take a guess that European restaurants and bars have smaller ice makers, just as European homes have smaller refrigerators, so ice is simply not as abundant.

                  When I first started visiting Europe, about 30 years ago, I also found straws and paper cups much harder to come by. And the refrigerated canned and bottled drinks in shops were rarely very cold--and often merely cool.

                  1. I personally don't like too much ice in my drinks. If it's not refrigerated, I would rather drink it at room temperature.

                    I always had a conspiracy theory that when an establishment gives too much ice was so they can give less of the beverage and still charge full price. Especially when it's alcoholic and if they charge for refills.