Fany Gerson’s Memories of Mexico

The ice cream, childhood, and family she’s thinking about these days

Fany Gerson Essay

Fany Gerson is the author of Mexican Ice Cream, Paletas, and My Sweet Mexico. Her shop, La Newyorkina, specializes in all natural, handmade paletas, ice cream, and other treats.

I left Mexico a little over 2 decades ago, but lately, I have been missing it more than ever. The past few months have been difficult in a personal and professional way with everything going on in the world, and I long to be there in a way that makes me feel like a little girl that just fell and desperately needs to be hugged, held and consoled. I need to get that hug but not from a person, rather from my Mexico. I desperately want to see my family and friends, to roam freely, to visit the markets, to be surrounded by the colors, the sounds, the energy and the flavors. I long for the seemingly endless lingering that goes on after a meal that we refer to as sobremesa. I need the collective embrace of it all.

Thinking about Mexico and growing up there, has brought up a lot of memories. A lot of those have to do with my sister who is almost 3 years younger than me and now lives on the other side of the world. I have to say that my memory is spotty, but luckily hers isn’t, so she is able to recreate a lot of them. One of my favorite tales she likes to remind me about makes me laugh out loud every time because some things have not changed at all. We used to pretend we had a restaurant and she just wanted to get started and play, but I, of course, had to get the perfect flower, the perfect little glass to hold it with just the right amount of water, the ideal light and placement, the perfect everything to even get started. By the time I was done setting up, at least 40 minutes later, she was done with me and didn’t want to play restaurant anymore.

For a number of years, on most Sundays, we would go to a park nearby with a small shallow “pool” where we would play with small floating boats we would pull along. She wasn’t as into it as I was, but we would also spend hours running around, often chasing and arguing with one another until the best time of the day happened. It was time to get ice cream! Well, technically ice cream or paletas… there was a restaurant by the park that served ice cream floats, but my mom was very against junk food, especially sodas, and she knew that’s what we wanted,  so we would only really go there when it was just my dad as we were able to convince him more easily. Getting paletas required us to get in the car to go to a nearby neighborhood, as the ones nearby weren’t as good, but we always tried to negotiate to have ice cream there and we would tell my mom we would even just get the ice cream without the soda and then go get the paletas. That never really worked with one exception to the rule. If we were lucky enough to see someone selling nieves de garrafa (hand-paddled ice creams), she would be the first to jump at the chance.

My mother may have been strict about junk food, but has always had a sweet tooth and if there was someone selling something handmade, anything, she would always not just buy, but take the time to talk to them, to make us listen and appreciate them and all the work that went into making that ice cream and I will always be grateful for that.

Years later, our brother Pedro was born (he is 10 years younger than me) and I vividly remember my sister excited because she was finally tall enough, just like me, to peek into the paleta case and be able to pick out which flavor she was certain he would like all by herself, just like I would pick for her, but we would argue as we each felt we would know best what he would like better (we probably still do that to this date to some extent).

I always say that being away from home is what brought me closer to it I in many ways, but now that I miss it so much, I find myself diving deep into these memories and recipes to feel closer to all of those who have been part of those delicious moments of my history.

Many year ago, I wrote in My Sweet Mexico about one of those experiences that truly marked me. My aunt Alex, my mom’s sister, told me about an ice cream town a friend had mentioned and quickly made plans to go there the next day. I couldn’t believe I had grown up in Mexico and there was an ice cream town nearby that I never knew about!

We only had a general idea of where it was, but that was it. No name or main reference, but after hours of driving, we finally found it! It wasn’t a town per se, but in the middle of a highway, we found about fifteen ice cream vendors lined upside by side. Hand cranked ice cream garrafas made inside colorful, chipped, hand painted wooden buckets appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

How would we decide which one to try? They all looked the same. We starred at the florescent cardboards that indicated the flavors: “sigh of an angel,” “moons lullaby”, “mermaids’ song,” “drunk cream,” “lovers’ melody” “devils kiss…” We didn’t know what this meant but we knew we were in a magical place. A knock on the window startled us. I rolled it down and a skinny kid about ten years old with cacao skin and bright eyes, Mariano, said “I know you’re sitting here wondering where to go and let me assure you our ice cream is the best.” He explained he made the ice creams every morning with his father and that his mom, nowhere in sight, showed him when the fruits were ripe enough to be picked and how to milk the cows that strolled in the fields behind their house to make the ice cream.

I am not sure if what he told us what true or not, but we ended up staying there for hours and it is one of the most magical experiences of my life. Grateful that my sister was there. Through my books and my work, I have tried to capture those experiences to share with others. The magic of the sweetness of Mexico that I miss but that I try to recreate in essence.

Fany's grandmother Ana 1
Fany’s grandmother Ana

During the past few months, my grandmother Ana, 94, has had ups and downs health wise and I think she too misses a lot of the things I miss, even though she is there, because of all the current restrictions and special considerations. Luckily though, she has been better lately and through a family chat that we have, I get to see images of her going to get ice cream with my aunts and cousin. It is as much a highlight of her day, as it is mine and I only wish I was there to go with her to get some or better yet, to make some for her.

She loves coffee and pecan ice cream, but this is the ice cream I would make if I was there for her and have a feeling she would love it!

Keep summer around a little longer with her cookbooks:

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Mexican Ice Cream by Fany Gerson
Mexican Ice Cream
By Fany Gerson
Hardcover $22.00
Also available from:
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Paletas by Fany Gerson
By Fany Gerson
Hardcover $16.99
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