Earlier this week the weather report warned of cold and very chilly temperatures around midnight and in the early morning hours. A picture of two women wearing puffy ski jackets, hats, and scarves even accompanied the article. Those chilly temperatures? 68 degrees. Yeah, I was still sleeping with the air conditioner on…
Sorry friends and family who are beginning to pull out sweaters and snuggle up under fleece blankets after being pelted by sleet and cold, drizzly rain. At least you have your Pumpkin Spice Lattes, bonfires, and Hallmark Channel movies. Meanwhile, despite the “cold” morning temperatures, the afternoon and evening temperatures are still high enough to generate a bright red face, a rolling sweat, and the need to change shirts at least twice daily. I am over here still looking for that ice cold treat guaranteed to take the edge off- – besides a frosty margarita.
Paletas, or popsicles, are one of my favorites. No need for a stick here. Fresh fruit is mashed, sugared to taste (if necessary), and poured into a plastic baggie. The juice and chunks of fruit are then frozen. If the fruit used is watermelon, even the seeds are tossed in for good measure! Venders fill their coolers and set off for baseball diamonds, busy street corners, and plazas- -really almost anywhere they will find people needing relief. Paletas are sold for about five pesos each. At that price, why not buy two? You just tear the corner of the baggie with your teeth and enjoy! Mango, pineapple, and strawberry are crowd favorites.
Nieve, the Spanish word for snow, is used interchangeably with helado, the word for ice
cream. Nieves are water, not dairy based. Fresh fruit, water, and other natural ingredients are mixed by hand giving the treat a creamier appearance than paletas. The mixing process can take from 90 to 120 minutes. Nieves are served in a cone, cup, or a plastic baggie. Popular flavors include pistachio, chicle, and tamarind. I bought mine at one of our local grocery store for about eight pesos.
While the difference between a paleta and nieve is subtle, it is there. My good friend, Jesús, straightened me out. I thought I was sharing a paleta with him. After eating it, he corrected me. It is all about texture.
Finally, there is the raspado. I recently came across a gentleman with his raspado cart at a street festival. I do not believe he had ever had a customer so excited to try his concoction. My excitement was contagious, as my group of friends lined up behind me. Raspados are shaved ice, natural fruit juice, fresh fruit, and a bit of sweetened condensed milk. Yes, basically a snow cone, but better. Real fruit juice and chunks of fresh fruit are game changers. The condensed milk adds interesting flavor as well.
While this particular vender offered fairly common varieties of the treat (peach, pinapple, grape, tamarind, and mango), one of the most popular raspados in Sonora is the Diablito, or Little Devil. This is a hot and spicy snow cone made with tamarind, chamoy, chile en polvo (like Tajín), and lemon. To add even more flavor, Diablitos are garnished with hot chile lollipops. Once I work my way through the fruit varieties, maybe I will give this one a try. Maybe. But probably only if there is a very chilly morning.
My grande cost for the raspado was 25 pesos. Each summer in Indiana, my family went through a Hawaiian Ice phase. We were easily spending $15.00 a week to get our fix. At this rate, I can sample a new flavor daily and treat a friend!
Sure, there are days I miss the changing of the colors, the brisk breezes, wearing my favorite fall jacket, the anticipation of a weather delay from school, and Starbuck’s white hot chocolate. But most days, I am perfectly content to use my teeth to rip open the end of a baggie of cold, fruit goodness and enjoy the pictures my friends are sharing. At least I think it is them. It can be hard to tell through their layers of cold weather gear.