My Vanilla Ice Cream Salad

Jorge Milanes Despaigne

The Coppelia Ice Cream Parlor. Photo: Caridad

“Cake, cookies, waffers!” shout the old and new vendors at the entrance of the famous Coppelia ice cream park in downtown Havana.  All of them display their wares in old shopping carts that were used in the now almost forgotten markets of the ‘80s.

“Buy mine!  I’m telling you, they’re the cheapest and tastiest, but also inside there aren’t any,” the vendor suggested, using one of the most amusing selling strategies.

“How much is a slice of cake?” I asked her.

“Five pesos a package, but if you want them individually, they go for two pesos each.”

I decided to buy one from that woman, who thanked me for what would end up not only fluttering my delighted palate, but also my soon-to-be demonstrated ingenuousness.

I planned to savor a delicious ice cream “salad”, but I couldn’t understand: if Coppelia is the “cathedral of the ice cream,” how is it possible that don’t sell those delicious complements to their ice cream specialties.

Anyway, I continued up to the bar and was able to find a seat in that place that doesn’t make a big hoop-dee-do over its name.

Immediately a clerk approached me.

“Ice cream salad?” he asked.

“Is that all you have?” I inquired.

“Yeah, but it’s only vanilla,” he informed me with his back turned.

Unfortunately my mind had been made up, but I didn’t have any other alternative than to accept the proposal.  I observed how he took one of those plastic plates and with the scooper he put in five balls of what I supposed were ice cream.  On top of those he sprinkled a powder, which I imagined was made of cookie crumbs.  When finishing, he stuck in a bent-up spoon, turned toward me, slid the plate to me down the bar, and said: “That’ll be five pesos.”