The days are long and hot. Most homes and businesses do not have any kind of central air system, and the best thing to do to cool off is head for the heladería. In Spanish, the word helado means ice cream, but it can also mean icy, ice-cold, iced or frozen. You can find all of that in abundance at your local heladería.
In Argentina, the traditional manner of making ice cream is founded on the shoulders of generations of Italian immigrants who brought their recipes and skills with them. Their skilled descendants are craftspeople in their own right, who not only make ice cream, often by hand, but who also dream up amazing flavors.
You can find as many as 60 different flavors and a whole group of them will contain dulce de leche, a national favorite. Today, I chose something that was new to me--cantaloupe ice cream.
Other than the many flavors, there is a texture difference. I read that it is because the ice creams here have less air. It is hard to imagine, but it makes a huge difference!
Apparently, there are about 100,000 ice cream kiosks in Argentina. What that actually means is that you can walk to one or more ice cream stores in just a few minutes. Near the mission home, there are at least 5. If I take the train one stop in either direction I can visit a dozen more.
Walking to the ice cream store isn’t even a necessity. Most places deliver. Unlike in the olden days when the ice cream man pushed a cart around the city, nowadays, the bigger chains, with logos as recognizable as any sportswear insignia, have motos and zoom their confections right to your door. However, the smaller vendors hire a bicyclist to bring you your goods. Either way, you purchase it by the kilo and it it comes packed in styrofoam cooler containers.
There is an association for authenticating the production of these crafted ice creams, called gelatos. However, with half a million Italians living in Buenos Aires, one only has to view the state of the parlors at midnight to know which ones are truly authentic. With the early dinner hour not starting until 8 and the normal Argentine sitting down for their meal with the family somewhere between 9 and 10, you can correctly imagine that these places are the venues of families and friends sitting, chatting and enjoying their cucuruchos (large cones) until the wee hours of the morning.
(This late night culture is one of the reasons why the missionaries have trouble getting their investigators to church on Sunday mornings.)
Sometimes the missionaries are treated to ice cream at homes where they are visiting. Other times, they use their personal pesos for a special treat. Pretty much across the mission, the helados are considered worth every centavo.