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LJ Idol Topic #25: Uncarved Block
cap, captain miss america
This past Monday, I was out walking, and I came upon a little food fair set up on the street outside a park that my friends and I frequent for lunch. There were all kinds of delicacies lining the street: banh mi, gelati, the most amazing homemade cannoli I’ve ever eaten. And in the center of the space stood a little stand, and a young man with two things that made my eyes light up: An ice shaver, and a giant block of pure, crystalline ice.

sign for shaved ice

photo of the sno cone man at work

These weren't just any sno-cones he was serving. They were made with all-natural syrups in grown up flavors, like Jalapeño, Barlett Pear, and Rhubarb, a far cry from the Flavor-Aid of the Snoopy Sno-Cone Maker. I'm not even sure if that stuff had a specific flavor besides "Red." What was it, Cherry? Strawberry? Raspberry?

I ordered one, and anyone who knows me well would know that I ordered rhubarb. Rhubarb is one of those flavors that I positively lust after in the winter months when the real, fresh stuff is just a tangy and perfect memory. My springs and summers are full of rhubarb pies, rhubarb compotes, rhubarb custards, rhubarb crumbles, rhubarb cocktails. I had my first strawberry-rhubarb pie of the season last weekend, and I can still taste the way the sweetness of the berries sets off the tartness of the rhubarb.

The man at the booth picked up his shiny silver ice shaver and went to work.

the ice shaver shaving the block of ice

The shaver made a soft, rhythmic scraping sound as it moved back and forth across the surface of the ice block in smooth, fluid motions. As he worked, the sno-cone man seemed to find his rhythm quickly. He looked about, grinning, as if there were no place in the world he would better like to be than right there, shaving ice. His pace quickened, in a way that is difficult to describe without making it sound like a trashy porn, even though there was nothing sensual about the way the ice shaver stroked the surface of the ice, and the sharp scraping sound that went along with it would definitely be jarring alongside that sort of description. But still, he worked up to a fever pitch, and the booth began to jostle and shake with his every motion, until one of the glass bottles of syrup flew from the table and crashed into the ground, shattering on impact.

the shattered bottle

He apologized profusely, and dropped to one knee to pick out the largest shards of glass before anyone stepped on them. He fished out the bottle label and held it up.

"Bartlett Pear," it said.

"Which flavor did you want?" he asked.

I laughed. "Rhubarb," I said. "So we're okay."

"Yes," he agreed. "That I can do."

He went back to work, more carefully now, pausing between strokes to check the table's balance. Finally, my little cup of ice was full, and he poured rhubarb syrup over top.

delicious syrup being poured over shaved ice

"Sorry for the delay," he told me, nodding to the shining glass fragments still on the ground.

"No problem," I assured him. "Sorry about your pear syrup."

He grinned. "Don't worry," he said. "I have another one."

I wandered off between the stalls and crowds of people, savoring my sno cone and the peculiar thrill that comes from being alone, anonymous, in a crowd of strangers.

There's a very important thing to know about eating a sno cone. It's that the first half is going to be a little bit sweet, and very icy, and your tongue might get numb and you might think to yourself that it's not worth finishing. It might be a little bit boring. But then, once you get past that top half, the second half is sweet with all the syrup that seeped down into a pool at the bottom of the cone. Every bite is sweeter and drippier and more delicious than the one before. And that is the best part.

my delicious sno cone!

I've been competing in therealljidol for the past several months on an alternate account at the_vernacular This is the second half of an entry begun here: here.

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I never realized that sno-balls could actually be things of quality until a few years ago, but New Orleans takes them seriously so I soon learned better once I was there.

Now I'm thinking of a Regency romance involving a gentleman in search of a Sno-ball of Quality.

This was like the perfect thing for you to encounter for the topic this week!

I know! It was crazy when I saw it! Plus, I felt like I hadn't ever done an Idol entry that was the typical "day in the life blog post" type that would be more like a regular blog entry I would write. So I felt like that was perfect for this week when I was planning on telling people it was me, anyway.

Up in my neighborhood we get the Dominican shaved ice guys with flavors like cañe (pure cane syrup) and tamarindo. It is very bemusing to think of yuppified shaved ice with Bartlett pear syrup!

Was this near Madison Square? If he's there on Monday, do point him out.

Yes, it's just at the north of the park set up to cross that pedestrian bit of Broadway. They also have delicious little Beijing kao ya buns and someone is selling hot dogs on pretzel rolls. And goat ice cream!

Omg, you are the_vernacular??? You were totally one of my earliest favorites from the season, but I had no idea it was you, especially since I've largely stopped following Idol since I dropped out.

I WANT! Oh wow :D Wish I had been there that day :)

I wish you had been there every day!

Oooo, no wonder I like the_vernacular's writing so much! :D

Snowcones are heaven on earth. I'm going to have to introduce LittleZ to them soon!

and now i miss the shaved ice of my youth. we had this hand-cranked thing that would take cylindrical blocks of ice; freezing water in a margarine tub would give you the perfect shape and size. crank away, serve with milk and sweet red bean paste.

it's gotten really fancy nowadays in korea. i was kind of amazed the first time i had some in an ice cream place there. so many different toppings! what is this jelly stuff??

bartlett pear sounds amazing.

Oooh, fancy shaved ice sounds awesome. I've only ever had it in the paper cup with syrup, no toppings.

I... um. Your entry is kind of completely overshadowed for me by the reveal. Wow. Not that I've had lots of interaction with you under this identity, and I wasn't around last season, but... I had no idea the_vernacular was an alternate identity for anyone.

Funny, I got to the first picture on the first part of the entry and thought... "strange, that looks just like zia_narratora's icon!" and as I went on, "I wonder if it's coincidence?" and on, "Maybe the_vernacular drew her icon? Or someone else did the art for both?" Then I got to the end and the reveal and was completely shocked despite your clues.

Hahaha! I think it did that for a lot of people this week.

There were clues in a lot of my entries for people who actually know me from last season, which was fun, but I don't think a lot of people picked up on them. It's okay!

Mostly, I really didn't want to get an unfair boost from my popularity last season. Now that we're at the point where everyone knows each other, I felt like it wasn't necessary to keep up the anonymity!

I love how sno-cones get sweeter. It's like a dessert that has its own dessert!

Oh, man, you totally have to come to Hawaii and have REAL shave ice. Not this rocky kind, but the kind that is like eating the softest, sweetest snow made by an angel.

Aw man that is my favorite kind.

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