|Summers + New Orleans = Snoball. It's the must have hot weather treat. And there's a
difference between New Orleans-style snoballs and most other kinds of icy treats. If you've
had a sno-cone or similar concoction almost anywhere except the New Orleans metro
area - where the ice is shaved paper thin - you haven't had the same thing at all.
|An Old New Orleans Snoball
|The first machine designed to shave ice to a thin, fluffy consistency was invented in New Orleans in
the 1930's. Until then, ice was shaved by hand. Snoballs (usually spelled without the 'w' in N.O.)
became popular throughout the country during the Depression, but, afterward, they gradually
faded away - for many years, available only in Baltimore, at the Jersey shore and in New Orleans.
|New Orleans, 1932: children gather around the snoball wagon,
eager to have a cool treat on a hot summer day; the cost: 2 cents.
|The snoball has developed into more than a delicious summer treat. In New Orleans, snoballs are an
institution and a cultural icon. Few things in life equal the anticipation of standing in line at a
neighborhood snoball stand, studying the bright, colorful syrup bottles lined up on the shelf...trying
to decide which flavor to choose. (I always seem to wind up with a nectar cream - and always
say I'll choose something different "next time." But I hardly ever do.)
|Above: George Ortolano stands outside of his New Orleans grocery
store, ca. 1936; he invented the SnoWizard machine in the 1930's.
Below: Ernest Hansen (shown with wife, Mary) invented the Sno-Bliz machine
in the 1930's: the couple prepares a snoball in their N.O. shop in 1973.
|I'm told that snoball shops have recently been opening in some other areas of the
country, typically owned by New Orleans transplants who crave the treat themselves.
If you ever see a sign that reads, "New Orleans-style snoballs sold here," don't pass
up the opportunity to enjoy a delicious treat - and an old New Orleans icon. -- Nancy
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