Branstads’ ice cream maker arrives on ‘slow boat from China’

Former Iowa first lady Christine Branstad was widely known for the homemade ice cream she served at the ambassador's residence in China. (Photo courtesy of

Former Ambassador to China Terry Branstad said Tuesday his worldly possessions, including a prized ice-cream maker, arrived last weekend, three months after he returned to Iowa. 

“It was a slow boat from China,” Branstad, the former governor of Iowa, told the Land Investment Expo in Des Moines. 

About that ice cream maker: Branstad and his wife, former first lady Christine Branstad, discovered many Chinese people love ice cream. But it’s hard to find.

“When we got over to China, we found out that ice cream is rare and expensive,” Branstad said. “Sometimes it melts and it crystallizes.”

“So my wife ordered an ice-cream maker and makes homemade ice cream. She did that in China and it was a big treat,” Branstad said. “We only served American food at the events we hosted, but my wife and I would eat Chinese food with chopsticks the other days when we weren’t hosting people.”

“When we hosted groups, my wife would invariably make homemade ice cream and that was a big hit,” Branstad added.

President Donald Trump appointed Branstad ambassador in part because of the former governor’s long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Branstad held the position from May 2017 until he resigned in October 2020. He returned to Iowa and campaigned for Republican candidates in the 2020 election. 

Branstad said he served longer as ambassador than each of the three previous appointees.

Now, the famed ice-cream maker is back in Iowa. So is a bunch of other stuff the Branstads had been waiting for.

“Over the weekend, we finally got our shipment,” Branstad said. “It took three months, but we got it. So (Christine) is back to making homemade ice cream.”