Today, you can find it in any town in the United States — whether you prefer yours with hot fudge, with or without nuts or topped with a cherry, the ice cream sundae is an American staple.
But the sweet treat was a novelty back in the 1890s, when 24-year-old Charles Sonntag introduced the sundae at his pharmacy and soda fountain on Lockport Street. Today, the location is home to .
But was the creamy concoction truly invented here? That’s the mystery filmmakers will unravel in an upcoming PBS documentary, which takes a look at the four towns that claim the distinction of being the first place to serve up a sundae.
The special, “The Mysterious Origin of the Ice Cream Sundae,” will feature a guest appearance from architect and local historian .
Filmmaker Eric Roberts, founder of Mysterious Origin Productions, was in downtown Plainfield June 27 to interview Lambert.
Roberts tracked Lambert down after an Internet search led him to Plainfield Patch’s “A Town Called Plainfield” column.
“I think the Patch article really brought Plainfield to light,” said Lambert. Previously, the filmmakers were aware of three towns believed to be the birthplace of the ice cream sundae: Two Rivers, Wisconsin; Evanston, Illinois; and Ithaca, New York.
“It popped up on the Internet that there’s a fight between Ithaca, New York and Two Rivers, Wisconsin,” Roberts said. “It looked like it was a little bit of fun.”
Subsequent searches turned up legends tracing the origin of the sundae back to Evanston and Plainfield. And the battle to claim the tasty treat can get a bit intense — Two Rivers even has its own ice cream sundae fight song.
“It’s a hoot,” Lambert said of the song. “Plainfield’s behind the eight ball,” he joked.
But the village does have one fact on its side in the battle to claim ownership of the ice cream treat. The name of the druggist, Sonntag, just happens to be the German word for “Sunday,” Lambert said.
Roberts said his New York-based company is producing an entire series of food origin mysteries, tracing the roots of favorites including Thousand Island dressing, potato chips, the hamburger and the English muffin.
“There’s a lot of cool origin stories,” Roberts said.
As for the ice cream sundae story, the production company has snagged a deal with PBS, which has committed to broadcast the documentary.
“Now we’re waiting for some grant money to come in” to complete the project, Roberts added.
As for the identity of the real “sweet spot,” a promo for the upcoming documentary promises all will be revealed when the special airs. Stay tuned to Patch for information on air dates and times.