I was born in 1933 and raised in New Orleans, though I have lived in Quaker Hill, Conn., for 50 years. One thing I really miss is a good snowball. I have returned to NOLA several times over the years and always made sure I made a pilgrimage to the nearest snowball stand. Here in Connecticut you can get a "sno-cone" with only grape or blue raspberry flavors. I have tried over the years to find a source in NOLA where I could purchase ready-made snowball syrup in a quart size. No success. I can find someone who will sell me a concentrate that will make a gallon or more of syrup, but in my lifetime I will never use a gallon of syrup. What I was hoping for was a place where I could buy something like spearmint or coconut or some of the other tasty flavors. I have no intention of opening a snowball stand in Quaker Hill; I just would like to let my grandchildren know what a real snowball tastes like.
In spite of the heat, the humidity, and a few rather serious storms, I feel sorry for a guy who grew up in the Big Easy but has spent the last 50 years living in a town no one has written a song about. You are like many readers who have fond memories of New Orleans but left the city and now understand what it means to miss New Orleans.
We are most fortunate here because -- even after Hurricane Katrina -- there are so many great sno-ball stands to choose from, and everyone I know has a favorite. However, not all of them will sell you just the syrup without the snow.
I know of one place for sure where you can buy syrup in smaller quantities. While technically not in New Orleans, Sal's Sno-Balls at 1823 Metairie Road will sell you syrup in fifth-of-a-gallon bottles for $5, a little more if you want chocolate or diet varieties. Sal's, one of the very popular sno-ball stands in the New Orleans area, celebrated its 45th anniversary last summer. It's open every afternoon from late February to late October; the phone number is (504) 666-1823.
However, you might rethink your idea about opening a sno-ball stand. A local company -- Southern Snow (103 West W St., Belle Chase, LA 70037; www.sno-ball.com) -- will teach you how to have a go at your own business. It has 150 different flavors of syrup available -- flavors the folks in Quaker Hill have only dreamed of. Imagine how popular you'd be if you introduced sno-balls with flavors such as "dinosaur," "dill pickle," "hurricane," "peanut butter," "white Russian," and "tiger blood." Okay, I'll admit that this last one might not play too well where you are, but you've got to hand it to a company that can come up with that many choices. Southern Snow sells both quart and gallon concentrates in every flavor.
Of course, to get a "real" sno-ball, you need a special kind of machine that shaves the ice. It's not only the syrup but also the quality of the ice that makes a snow cone -- made with crushed ice -- inferior to the sno-balls made here. The ancient Romans had snow balls for dessert, but they used real snow. Since snow is not so easy to get in New Orleans, the first manufactured snow was obtained by using a hand shaver created especially for the purpose of turning a block of ice into fluffy snow, but it was a tedious procedure. Then in 1934, Ernest Hansen invented and patented the first motorized ice block shaver -- Hansen's Sno Bliz -- to produce the style of shaved ice that New Orleans sno-balls are famous for.
You may just have to bring your grandchildren to New Orleans to give them the total "sno-ball" experience.
In the Aug. 22 "Blake" column, a photo caption erroneously stated that the S.S. President is docked in Effingham, Ill., a city that is not on a body of water. A correction accompanying the same column incorrectly stated the year Gen. James Wilkinson visited New Orleans. The correct date is 1787. Gambit Weekly regrets the errors.