No milk, sugar: Venezuelans lose prized ice cream to crisis
The Coromoto ice cream parlor had it all - chocolate and vanilla for sure, though also garlic, avocado and even octopus sorbets... but the things you can’t find in Venezuela any more, like milk and sugar, means the landmark has had to close for good. When Manuel Da Silva first opened its welcoming yellow doors in 1981, the Heladeria Coromoto offered its clients the tried and trusted - vanilla, strawberry, chocolate and coconut flavors.
Until one day, Manuel tried out an avocado sorbet on his customers. “It was a success!” says Jose Ramirez, Manuel’s son-in-law who now runs the business. “He had a crazy idea and he started to invent, to try things with meat, with fish,” says Jose. He might have stopped at chipi-chipi, a small Caribbean mollusc, but Manuel was clearly not a man to hold back on a hunch. New flavors followed when he experimented with garlic as well as onion flavored ice cream.
Soon Manuel’s imagination knew no limits and the number of wacky flavors, and his reputation, grew. “People were coming to try some strange things,” said Luis Marquez, a young local in the mountain town of Merida who grew up coming to the Coromoto. In 1991, just a decade after opening and a world away from plain old vanilla, the Heladeria Coromoto got an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for providing the most flavors of any ice cream parlor in the world-at the time, 386.
But Manuel, a Portuguese immigrant, continued to innovate and play with people’s tastebuds. Black bean ice cream soon followed, chilli, beetroot... up to a staggering 860 flavors. The shop quickly became a key attraction in Merida, an Andean city of 450,000 which is also known for having the world’s highest cable-car ride, 4,765 meters above sea-level. Now it comes highly recommended in tourist guides such as Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor. But Venezuela’s deepening economic crisis since the collapse of crude oil prices in 2014 meant it became an ordeal to source raw materials over the last few years. “For years we have been suffering from shortages and we buy on the black market. We cannot get products from our traditional suppliers,” said Jose, 56. Up to now, Jose has always managed to scrape by. “But the situation got more complicated this year .... ”
As many Venezuelans battle hunger and malnutrition because of an economic and political crisis, some will see it as another beautiful thing that has gone in a country dazed from months of often violent protests that killed 125 people. — AFP