Sweet Treats for Keeping Cool

Originally published on Epicurious.com

In my experience, there are only three ways to keep cool in New Orleans come summer. Since neither AC nor swimming pool is particularly convenient for running errands or otherwise walking about in the out of doors, I go for the sno-ball. No crude and crunchy sno-cone, the sno-ball is a wonder of light, fluffy shaved ice (so light, it won't clump if you place it in the freezer), saturated with rich, sugary syrup, and sometimes topped with condensed milk. Or whipped cream. Or soft-serve ice cream. Or all three.

The glorious frozen cup

The glorious frozen cup

There's also a homemade version of this frosty sugar bomb, which holds a special place in every New Orleans kid's heart: The frozen cup (alternately known as a huckabuck) is simply flavored sugar syrup (sold as sno-ball syrup in grocery stores citywide) diluted with a little water and frozen in a disposable paper or plastic cup. The overheated youth only has to pop out the flavored ice and turn it over, placing it wide side down so that the bottom sticks out over the top of the cup. It's low tech and doesn't have the ethereal lightness of a sno-ball, but a frozen cup works damn well as a portable air conditioner for your insides just the same.

On a recent trip home, my mom surprised me with a frozen cup in my favorite flavor: red. When I was growing up in New Orleans, every neighborhood had someone — usually an old lady — selling them to area kids for a quarter. Sweet relief was never farther than a yell through a dusty screen door. These days, with many neighborhoods struggling to reestablish and others still barely populated, there's a real danger that traditions like this might disappear. Here's hoping that there are people out there determined to keep them up. Mom?