Writer’s Block: Summertime Snacks

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

I don’t know about you, but when the temperatures start to rise and my mouth becomes parched I start to get some cravings for summertime snacks en el estilo del Valle. I’m talking about raspas, elote, fresh fruit with Trechas or chamoy, sour pickles, ice cold Mexican sodas — the works.

I can remember as a child when my mom tried to teach us kids a lesson in the value of a dollar earned.
Every summer she’d organize a garage sale and we would choose what clothes we’d grown out of and toys we’d grown tired of to sell. But, beyond the couple of dollars we could glean from selling items for 10 cents here or 50 cents there, Mom also organized us into running a small business of our own: we kids ran our own neighborhood raspa stand.

We’d freeze huge chunks of ice in the freezer and crush it to bits by hand. No fancy ice-shaving machines for us. Our house, which sat on a corner lot, was an ideal location to set up shop. And so, for a few summers our house was the place to be.

I don’t remember how much we charged for raspas, but in those days, they weren’t very fancy: just ice and a small selection of syrups. We also sold sour pickles from huge gallon jugs.

Our house was a nexus for more reasons than the snacks, though. Neighborhood-wide games of hide-n-seek were a common occurrence, with our house serving as “home base.” Impromptu karate sparring matches were a thing, too, as were games of canicas, or marbles. And yeah, we even played a few games of duck-duck-goose.

Once the last school bell rang for the year, you could hardly keep us indoors. Mom’s rules were that we kids could spend the entire day outside until it got dark, and only if we stuck together. That meant I spent a lot of time with my big brother and his friends, but that was never a bother to me. I was too busy having fun.

To this day, though, eating a raspa transports me back to those times, especially on the hottest of days. Taking a bite of that ice cold sweetness suddenly brings forth memories of the smell of freshly cut grass, or water from the manguera, or water hose, which always had its own unique taste. It reminds me of building what I used to call fairy nests out of lawn clippings. It reminds me of the laughter-filled walks we neighborhood kids would undertake, beach towels in hand, down to the municipal pool.

When you play hard all day you work up quite an appetite, which always made those raspas all the more divine. And speaking of working up an appetite: the workday is almost done. I think I’ll go grab a raspa! I hope you will, too. Feel free to tell us your favorites by visiting us online at www.portisabelsouthpadre.com.

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared in the South Padre Parade in June 2015. It has been edited for clarity.

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