Cuentos granadinos (Stories from Granada)
The taxi pulled up to the sidewalk and the door opened automatically. I slid in, somewhat astonished about the advanced technology of the automobile considering that here in Spain my experience has proved that traditional methods override progressive methods more often than not. I was in a great mood because I was going to meet up with one of my favorite people, Sarah (or Sarita as we have dubbed her), whom I met while studying abroad in Santander, Spain in 2005 and who ironically was passing through Granada with a group of students from her school. Because of my innate curiosity augmented by good mood, I began to chat it up with the taxi driver. He was a nice, old fellow with a fatherly-like disposition and a friendly smile. I’m not sure how many of these “cuentos”, or stories, will cross my path, but I want to try and write them down to share with others because I find them so fascinating. I’m going to add some flourish to mine, but this is what was, in short, related to me in that taxi ride through the heights of the Albayzin at sunset.
“Did you know that Granada was the first city to have ice cream? And freezers, too? Yes, indeed. Long ago, when the Muslim empire extended to the Iberian Peninsula, and the appreciation for knowledge, functionality, and beauty was equal, the inhabitants of this city searched for ways to keep cool during the hot summer months. Towering above the city was the Sierra Nevada, whose high peaks promised a refreshing treat year round: snow. By night, a caravan would be prepared with mules and sacks and the men would haul up their animals to the top. A trail is still there to this day, the same one used to traverse the mountain up and down. They would pack the sacks with the snow and make their way down the mountain to the city. Risky it was to travel by day as the sun, Lorenzo, would surely melt this precious commodity.
“Upon arriving to Granada, the mules would be unloaded of their cargo and the snow would be used for ice cream and preservation. The story goes that when ambassadors from other lands in Europe, which at that time were living in the darkness of the Middle Ages, would come to Andalucía, they would receive a cold treat to help combat the hot summer temperatures. This astounded the ambassadors that, during such a time when nothing was being created and enlightenment was scarce, something so simple yet so rich could be found in the kingdoms in the South.”
I don’t know the rest of the story about ice cream, or gelato. Maybe it really originated in Italy. Or maybe before. I do know that in Andalucía, much emphasis was placed on the pleasure of all senses: taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch. Thus so many decadent gardens exist inside the houses- to appease to sight, smell, and hearing. The flavors of the ice cream probably only helped to enhance the experience, along with the texture of something cool and refreshing on a hot summer day.