Had dinner, walking back through town, my postres craving stampeding. Looking around for signs of sweets, ice-cream would be just right right now, usually one just scans for a floor trunk freezer but none in evidence. We duck into the shop where Tom bought the first round of precious Cusquena Negra, and the proprietor unhesitatingly directs us a half block back, on the right. Into a nondescript bodega, ask and the young man’s eyes light up, his ball cap pecking and weaving in enthusiasm. “Do you want the artificial stuff that everyone has, or do you want natural ice-cream made with milk fresh from the cow?” he rhetorically grins. He takes on the cadence of a storyteller, all charisma and hand movement, he makes it himself at home with just a few but highest quality ingredients, salt, ice, flavoring extract, white sugar, cows’ milk. I’m sold and he asks when tomorrow we want it, huhwhat?, I want it now!, he sags a bit, he’d have to go home and prepare it, maybe maybe, sure not tomorrow?, he dashes back to check with his mother if he can be released from his present duties, comes back shaking his head apologetically but we’re the ones who are blushing sheepish that he’d even considered it, such a great kid contemplating making ice-cream for us motley cycling trio. We thank him and begin to leave, he says that if we come back even as early as 8 tomorrow he’d have some. But ice cream for breakfast seems ridiculous.
T&S leave early the next morning, arrows into the day at their admirable — but not necessarily my preferred — 0-absurd-thirty. I putter about, get breakfast and coffee and chat with some folks, by the time I’m ready to roll out it’s 8:15. I go to see our ice cream friend at the shop to acknowledge his kindness from the evening before. His mother summons him, he’s still smiles and agreeableness, it turns out that his house is on the way out of town for me up to Pupash pass, he insists that I drop by to see the workshop. We walk together up a steep dirt avenue, I’m greeted by neighbors differently from usual as Jhulian’s guest, leave my bike outside the packed dirt walls with sheep and pigs.
Both excited and serious, he shows me the machines, containers, expensive freezer, ingredients in order. Articulate cheer, washes his hands in between handling things, I sample a bit of the sugar, the milk, he encourages me to work the churning vat to get a feel for ice-cream making speed. At three years old, he beams, his father started showing him how to make the ice-cream, twenty years ago now, makes a trip once a month over the mountains to Huaraz to get the special stuff that will set it in the right way.
He breaks several brightly distinctly colored cubic foot blocks free in the freezer, let them soften for a bit, we chat, he’s happy, helps his family, during festivals makes very good money and always decent demand. He scoops three four six scoops smashing them into the cone and I don’t need to fake or feign delight, icy rich thick texture and wonderful flavor.
He asks how old I am. “Do you have any daughters? Well, when you have some maybe I can marry one.”
“You’ll be waiting a long time!”
“Yes, 20 years, but that’s okay. And then you can retire from university and you and me, we can start an ice cream business in New York City,” he jokes, he glints the absurdity of it, but we’re having a good time with the possible world and I tell him we can charge 15 Soles for a three scoop cone. “We’ll be wealthy!”
We exchange contact information, he carefully writes out his email, mobile and mailing address, I fold it and put it in my pocket. I thank him again for the tour, for the ice cream, he won’t take payment, but when he’s putting the blocks away I give his sister a gift to pass along. I’m headed out and he catches up again, “wait! I forgot something on the sheet of paper.” I give it back to him, he spreads it out and writes slowly carefully in all caps center bottom,