New Orleans Snowball Magic
Macey Ory, author of this post, is one of the new graduate assistants at UL Press. She received a bachelor’s degree in English at Louisiana Tech University and is currently studying English with a concentration in professional writing at UL. She was born and raised in the greater New Orleans area and has a passion for all of Louisiana culture. She misses New Orleans food more than almost anything (besides her big, party-loving New Orleans family), and writing this blog post made her crave snowballs like crazy!
Growing up, I didn’t realize how blessed I was to live in the Greater New Orleans area. Oddly enough, I had this epiphany at the most magical place on earth: Disney World.
As we sat at one of the park’s many restaurants, I saw a few families with what I thought were beautiful—therefore obviously tasty—snowballs. They were presented in cute, plastic containers, perfectly rounded on top, with syrup poured in three precise, colorful stripes over the ice. My little sister and I begged our parents to buy us one, but they protested.
“That is not a snowball. That’s shaved ice. It’s not like the stuff at home and you’re not going to like it.”
The incredibly fine ice in this cotton candy cream snowball from Rodney's in New Orleans East is some of the best around. Image courtesy of Megan Braden-Perry, author of Crescent City Snow.
My parents raised my sister and me on New Orleans-style snowballs. My childhood summers were spent running around in the yard, in the sprinklers, or by the lake. After a long day playing outside in the beating sun and humidity so thick I felt like I needed gills, snowballs were the perfect treat. They were fantastic when it was hot, but they were also irresistible as I stepped, shivering, out of the sprinklers and into the AC. My favorite flavor as a little kid was classic spearmint—or as I called it, spear-a-mint. The sugary-sweet and minty-fresh syrup was poured over ice so fine that it immediately melted in my mouth. The syrup was dense and packed with flavor. If the ice melted before I could finish eating, I drank what was left with a straw.
But these perfectly packaged Disney snowballs were so pretty, and I had to have one.
Eventually my parents gave in to our pleas, as parents in Disney World often do, and they bought us both these “snowballs.” After two bites, we realized our mistake.
Despite their enticing appearance, these snowballs didn’t taste magical. The ice was not fine as it is in the New Orleans-style snowballs—it was chunky and crunchy. The syrup went through the ice and straight to the bottom of the cup, instead of evenly distributing and shimmering on top. The syrup also wasn’t as thick and flavorful; it quickly became watered down and was even less appealing when we tried sipping through a straw.
The most magical place on earth was not quite as magical as home could be. We did not finish our shaved ice, and our parents never let us forget it.
Each of these three snowballs from Sal's Sno-Balls in Metairie is a different flavor and topped with condensed milk. Image courtesy of Megan Braden-Perry, author of Crescent City Snow.
As an adult, I’ve come to see how difficult it can be to find a decent snowball outside of New Orleans. Years later, when I moved away from home, I realized that the snowballs of my childhood can be just as elusive in other parts of the state as they were in Disney World.
On a recent trip home, I had a different flavor of snowball almost every day of the week. Strawberry stuffed with vanilla ice cream eventually surpassed spearmint as my favorite, but recently I’ve begun to crave wedding cake flavor, the preferred choice of my mom and grandma. I stick to classic flavors, sometimes adding something creamy like condensed milk or ice cream. My adventurous little brother, on the other hand, will try anything, but particularly loves sour and candy options.
This Atomic watermelon snowball from Hansen's Sno-Bliz is loaded with cream, crushed pineapple, marshmallow fluff, and ice cream. Hansen's Sno-Bliz is the oldest New Orleans snowball stand and is just as delectable today as it was eighty-one years ago. Image courtesy of Megan Braden-Perry, author of Crescent City Snow.
In New Orleans, snowballs are an integral part of summertime, and the summers last almost all year. The snowball stands seem to compete over who can achieve the powderiest, snow-like ice, and who can come up with the most delicious and creative flavors and toppings. What we lack in snow from the sky, we make up for in flavored snow in a cup.
To read more about New Orleans snowballs, check out Megan Braden-Perry’s book, Crescent City Snow. She visits some of the best snowball stands around the city and captures the culture surrounding snowballs in New Orleans. She has some fantastic suggestions for flavors to try and includes several pages where you can record your own trips to genuine New Orleans snowball stands. Try a new flavor while the weather is still warm!