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King Cone

Fall 1993 | Volume 9 |  Issue 2

“I Albert Doumar,” the proclamation I begins, “come from a royal family in the world of ice cream. We Doumars proudly claim title of creators of the ice cream cone …”

These are deep and treacherous waters; the ice-cream cone is part of the great trinity of American delicacies, and as with the hot dog and the hamburger, its paternity is the object of many conflicting claims. But Al Doumar can ratify his family’s ice-cream aristocracy with an impressive mechanical credential, and he is busy working it next to the scrapbook that opens with his proclamation. It is the simple but ingenious ice-cream cone maker that his uncle Abe invented and put into service in 1905.

In a long, low oven four waffle irons centered over four gas rings sit side by side on parallel tracks. Each iron can pivot over the flame; each can be slid out and opened. Doumar demonstrates the whole process, effortlessly, four times a minute.

The iron to the far left has been over the fire long enough; he pulls it out on its track, lifts up the top, wraps the still-soft waffle around a tapered wooden shaper, and drops it into a cooling rack. Then he ladles up a couple of ounces of batter and dollops it onto the vacated iron (“Grandma’s Teflon,” he says—“nothing sticks to cast iron once it’s seasoned”) and slides it back over the flame. He repeats the process, up and down the line, flipping the irons halfway through the cooking, calmly reminiscing all the while.

“My uncle Abe came over here from Lebanon, and he was part of the Ancient City of Jerusalem show at the St. Louis world’s fair. But that shut down at six, so he’d go over and work a few hours at a food stand making waffles. He got the idea of rolling them into cones, and by the time the fair was over he’d thought up this machine.”

A machinist in Hoboken, New Jersey, built it for him, of iron and brass. “But I took all the brass off or painted it black. Otherwise you spend your life polishing brass.” There’s only a glint left here and there on the slides. “He set it up in a booth on Coney Island, on the Bowery right near Steeplechase Park. He had three partners; listen to their names—Zagbini, Hawaini, and Ganim.” Ganim bought them all out at the end of the summer, and Abe Doumar took his machine south, working the state fairs, ending up in Florida at season’s end, and eventually leaving behind a string of family-run ice-cream stands. There was plenty of family to run them: Abe had twelve siblings.

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