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  • Writer's pictureAnnamarie Simoldoni

Amy Brady’s Uncovering of America’s Icy Obsessions



The question started as the “embarrassing situation of asking for ice.”


Amy Brady was traveling outside the U.S. and found she wanted a cool drink. “And it got me to thinking: Why am I such a weirdo?”


She’s not alone! She set out to discover just how broad the desire is. Brady’s book, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks a Cool History of a Hot Commodity explores a 200-year history of ice and American culture. It chronicles the evolution of ice-making and explains how developments in an industry of cooling off influenced the way Americans think of cold.


“That obsession…fundamentally changed our relationship with food and drink, with how we play sports, how we practice medicine, and just how we think of coldness,” she said.


Her journey through ice focuses on the human story behind the commodity, from how our cubes were first created to our now modern mass market. She dives into the history and psychology of key figures in the early ice industry.


Such as: Frederick Tutor was a “Bostonian madman” who took advantage of his frozen backyard by selling and shipping portions of his lake around the country. The inventor of the first ice- making machine, Dr. John Gorrie, was labeled sacrilegious.


“When (Gorrie) announced to the world that he had made ice, he wasn’t met with this round of congratulations he expected,” Brady said. “He was met with a round of blasphemy.”


Brady is an award-winning environmental writer, historian and holds a Ph.D. in literature and American studies. She also is the executive director of national environmental magazine Orion. Her knowledge and background greatly influenced the creation of Ice.


“My research is often shaped by questions about how human activity is affecting the environment,” she said. One notable example from the book: The cooling industry is responsible for “about 10% of all planetary carbon emissions.”


While Brady acknowledges that the industry of ice is a considerable contributing factor to the climate crisis, Ice is ultimately a hopeful history.


“It’s a history of innovation, and how quickly humans can make changes if we just become obsessed with something enough,” she said.


Ice is available from publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons. Find out more about Brady at amybradywrites.com.

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