Shave Ice. It all seems so simple, but it wasn’t always so. Where elsewhere they’re all screaming for ice cream in the summer, in New Orleans we scream for snowballs-which are, of course, only possible because of shaved ice. Very, very finely shaved ice, almost to a liquid state, melting on your tongue with a refreshing sensation. In Baltimore, we hear, they claim they invented snowballs because they also use shaved rather than crushed ice—but it’s not as fine as ours, and here we pour not just syrup but toppings on top of that shaved ice, like condensed milk. But it all began with the shaved ice. Legend has it that Ernest Hansen, of the original Hansen’s Sno-Bliz now on Tchoupitoulas, invented the first block ice shaving machine in 1939; before that, the “snowballs” were made of hand-shaved ice, none too sanitary. Ernest’s wife Mary started making her own syrups, and there we have it—something else New Orleans does better. Apart from the Hansens’ contribution, it’s not a far stretch to connect the Sicilian immigrants to New Orleans, who knew about such treats from the old country, to the love of snowballs here. They’re almost like gelato, really, with the delightful array of snowball flavors available—like Satsuma, or nectar cream, or frozen mint Everyone has their favorite stand, like the venerable Hansen’s, or Plum Street Snoball uptown, or Pandora’s by City Park. The variety of flavors is mind-boggling, but rest assured that the very best all use freshly-made syrups, and often include ice cream or cream or condensed milk. Hey, frozen daiquiri stands are almost an offshoot of the whole idea! But remember, the ice has to be shaved, and you’ve got to stand in line a while in the 95 degree humidity to get your favorite, and then you need to consume it on the spot, with sticky syrups dripping down your chin. Then you know it’s really summertime in New Orleans.