Anyone who has ever chased an ice cream truck, begged for an Italian ice on the way home, or broken their new Snoopy snow cone machine on Christmas morning (still bothers me), will understand how excited I was when my friend sent me this article by pastry cook Gaby Camacho, A Chef Perfects the Paleta of Childhood, from the San Francisco Chronicle. Raised in Tijuana, she sets off in search of the paletas and raspados of her childhood. Remembering flavors like cucumber and lime, rose petals, and tequila, I could understand why she would be nostalgic. As an adult, I’ve stayed away from raspberry blue popsicles and radioactive snow cones, but I love the idea of making them with fresh ingredients from home. Trying the raspado de tamarindo first, I used all natural tamaring pulp from a nearby bodega to make the syrup. I’ll try it again when I find fresh tamarinds and some of the other combinations she suggests as longs as the heat lasts. It can’t be harder than chasing ice cream trucks.
Your took me back to el Parque de Maceo on the Malecon in Havana. My mom took me, my sister and my cousin Martica to the park every afternoon to get fresh air and to eat “duro frios” – snow cones. I don’t remember what they tasted like – they were cold, it was hot and we kids liked the colors. I’m sure they were nothing but colored sugar water – colored who knows with what. Apparently my aunt Dolly found out how handsome the duro frio man was and started coming to the park with us. There’s a picture of the five of us at the park (it’s actually on my FB page). The photo might have been taken by the duro frio man himself. It’s my favorite picture of me in Cuba wearing my tenis and my sombrero de guano. I’m sure my tongue was a screaming brilliant red. I can’t remember if we started getting more ice or more “jugo” – after Dolly joined us at the park or if the romance melted quickly in the hot Havana sun. We left a year or so later and Dolly and my cousin Martica (the one having a tantrum in the picture) came on the Freedom Flights. A couple of years after the picture was taken, the government nationalized the last of free enterprise banning the duro frio man along with the strongest smell/memory of Havana I have – the peanut vendor.