When we arrived in Quito over seven weeks ago one of the first things I noticed other than my own shortness of breath was the ubiquity of conos. Conos, sweet treats served in Ice Cream cones, could be found in the hands of businessmen in suits, indigenous women in panama hats or small children at any time of day or night. I was once cut off by a man in a suit running to catch a cab, soft serve in hand, before 9AM. Just like its diversity of consumers the lowly cono can come in many different shapes and flavors. In the interest of scientific discovery, Eric and I set about to eating as many different types as we could.
Ice Cream Cono
Every corner store sells Cornetos and other ice cream treats. These cost anywhere from 20 cents to $1.10 and come in traditional (chocolate, vanilla) and non-traditional (rum-raisin) flavors. Ice cream parlors are also very popular in every major city selling more expensive traditional ice creams and treats like crepes or cake.
Soft Serve Cono
The cono choice in Quito. They are not only sold in stores but also by uniformed workers carrying freshly swirled cones to commuters who will hand over 50 cents for a chocolate vanilla mix with sweet guava jam topping. Eric and I can’t protect ourselves from the charms of these street snacks. I can only hope that I don’t rock cono belly upon my return.
This street treat was a mystery to me. I kept seeing street vendors carry around large metal pans of billowy white and pink ice cream. They would serve it in cones topped with coconut. But these women were standing around the square all day and whatever is in the trays wasn’t melting? Eric didn’t know what it was either but he did know that espumilla, the non-stop vendor cry- was very similar to espuma which means “foam”. Thanks to our wise friend The Internet we learned that espumilla is whipped egg whites with flavoring. Pretty much uncooked meringue. We saw espumilla in every town, on any major street corner. Family coming out of mass? Snack on espumilla. Waiting for the bus? Espumilla Time! Need something to balance out that cigarette? More egg whites for you! Finally, after weeks of escapism we decided to confront our fears and dive in. It was like eating cool whip, room temperature and lactose free. It was super sweet and the coconut provided much needed texture and flavor. Every time you take a bite you expect ice cream but just get a hollow mouth of foam instead.
Salcedos are homemade ice creams which come in a wide variety of flavors. Cream and fruit are frozen together in a plastic cup and sold out of vendors’ coolers. The classic flavor is called Salcedo and has multiple layers of cream, orange and blackberry.
We can’t wait for what exciting treats await us in Peru!