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Coppelia: A National Obsession (1 Good)


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View Thomas's Great Adventure on edandsuet's travel map.

Coppelia is one of the most popular family treats in Cuba. It is essentially an outdoor ice cream parlour serving various flavoured scoops of ice cream in moneda nacional (1 peso = 1 scoop which is roughly 4 or 5 pence), although tourists are always directed to the ice cream stand that sells exactly the same product for 15 times the price. At weekends, there are two hour queues in Habana just to secure a table and order.

To understand what all the fuss was about, we decided to slip past the security guards and enter the world of Coppelia as experienced by the locals. There were many challenges ahead and the first was to find an empty table. We secured one on the balcony but after waiting for over fifiten minutes and being resolutely ignored along with Cubans on surrounding tables, we gave up and headed downstairs to the three ice cream bars, set out in a semi circle with stools. Surely we would have more luck as we joined a small queue to wait for a stool?

A sturdily built, grumpy, grim faced middle aged woman actually acknowledged our presence but would not take anyone's order. The ice cream bar seats about 15 customers and all the stools were full. We were now beginning to understand how the queue outside is over two hours long - was the ice cream just a myth? Bizarrely, we were served glasses of water, which no one touched, and we patiently waited.

Over the next fifteen minutes, our disenchanted server proceeded to wash bowls, pour water into jugs, wipe down the counter, remove our glasses and empty them of water, move condiments up and down the counter, fill more jugs with water much to our bemusement, but still no one was served. We tried a couple of times to ask for ice cream but were given a stern look and not dignified with a response. The locals were getting restless as well but no one had lost their resolve yet although I could tell that Thomas was ready to give up.

Finally the mystery was solved when a rotund lady appeared in a white coat and rearranged vast tubs of ice cream in the freezer, and hallelujah an ice cream scoop materialised. She had a chat with our stoic server and I now understood; one person scoops the ice cream and one person serves the ice cream; the natural order of things here must never be changed.

The ice cream flavours were barked at us at rapid speed and we ordered orange, pineapple and coconut ice cream. Why do all the Cubans order 10 scoops at a time? Because it takes an eternity to be served again and everyone is so thankful that the ordeal is over that the ice cream tastes all the better for it!

We revisted the ice cream bar section the next day with a new strategy - make mine 10 scoops please!

Posted by edandsuet 16:00 Archived in Cuba Tagged ice cream coppelia Comments (0)

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