Zalabia became ice cream cones in 1904. That was during the St. Louis World’s Fair where Ernest Hamwi was looking to make some extra cash by selling the sweet snack from his native country of Syria. Zalabia are crisp, waffle-like pastries, and a far cry from the ice cream the vendor next to him was selling—a treat so hot, the ice cream vendor ran out of glass cups to put it in.
Hamwi rolled his zalabia into a cornucopia and told the vendor to place the ice cream inside. And that’s how the cone was born in America’s melting pot.
Today, they’ve taken over. Or at least they have in the entrance of Sweet Cow ice creamery in Louisville, where fumes of sweet vanilla waft out of the entrance like Strawberry Shortcake showers here. Bright blues from inside the malt shop marry pleasantness with the ears and the eyes. Country music floats outside. Inside an employee cuts off the excess cone that has dripped over the sides of the waffle iron.
“This is the best job in the world,” Drew Honness says coming out of the back and moving a mile a minute. Walking back and forth opening freezers, taking ingredients out and putting them away, the owner of the ice cream parlor answers the question as to why that is. “It’s community. It’s about being in a neighborhood. It’s where people can walk, ride their bikes, bring their dogs, strollers, you name it.”
In other words, he says: “Sweet Cow is a throwback to the 1950s soda shop,” an intention made evident by the long counter punctuated with spinning bar stools and towers of waffle cones—a sense of Americana nostalgia.
No one knows who killed the soda shops of the golden age. Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt did them in when he signed the 1933 repeal of Prohibition, allowing Americans to frequent once again their more preferred drinking holes. Or maybe it was William Painter, who patented the crimped metal bottle cap, and made soda’s portable. But inside Sweet Cow at 11 am, the cold treat is selling, and curiously, in the country’s thinnest and healthiest county.