ICE CUBES

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice–Gabriel Garcia Marquez in “One Hundred Years of Solitude”

Jose Arcedio, one of the main characters in “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, felt that ice was the greatest invention. It was the metaphor for the town of Macondo with Marquez referring over and over to ice and it’s ephemeral nature.

My relationship with ice and ice cubes is more visceral. After a traumatic visit to Amazonian Peru where I suffered from mild heatstroke and drank tepid Coca Colas for days on end, I thought about Buendia when I reacquainted myself with an iced Coca Cola drink at the Lima airport. I noted how the interaction of the ice with the soda caused a condensation of water on the outside of the glass, as I gripped the glass the transfer of the cold sensation to the cold receptors in my sweaty palm, the chime of the ice hitting the sides of the glass, and the wonderful coldness coating my throat as the liquid meandered down my throat.

Ice for food preservation has been used for thousands of years. Lyrics from the Shih period in China 3000 years ago talk about the seasonal harvesting of snow. One of the Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible relates to the harvesting of snow. The Persians were noted to store ice in a pit called the Yakhchal. But it was the Greek, Romans, and Egyptians who used ice as a means for cooling beverages.

Ice was largely unknown in the tropics except for the Caribbean and India when Frederic Tudor perfected a means of harvesting and transporting ice to these areas from 1826 to 1892. He made a fortune and was called the Ice King.

Initially, ice was very expensive and available only to the wealthy. However, it became a commodity with use in the preserving of food, beer production, and more widespread with the patenting if the ice box in 1844. Ice houses and ice men became more popular. Eugene O’Neill even named a play after the ice man (“The Iceman Cometh” although there is no ice man character in the play.)

With the advent of reliable and cheap mechanical cold storage in the 1930’s, the ice man went the way of the dinosaur. I am old enough to remember refrigerators without automatic ice dispensers. My favorite was the aluminum tray with spine-like projections. When the water was frozen, you pulled the lever and there was this wonderful crack as slivers of ice fell over the table. In the “Harry Potter” movies, this cracking sound effects was used for the sound of the kids walking over snow. The aluminum tray method was replaced by plastic and now silicon trays which produce more uniform ice cubes and avoid the exposure to aluminum.

However, in the third world the access to refrigeration is still problematic. In the wonderful German movie “Nowhere in Africa” set in Kenya in the 1930’s, Jettel’s failure to purchase and transport a refrigerator from Nazi Germany to her family in Africa underscores her insensitivity.

The lack of reliable cold storage for food and medicine still has a great impact on health in the third world. Iced drinks continue to be available only for the wealthy with access to reliable refrigeration.

The Daily Mail recently highlighted the Glacé luxury ice cubes which apparently sell for five dollars an ice cube ($325 a bag). They are hand carved and reportedly tasteless. They cubes are claimed “to provide minimum dilution with maximum cooling.” Sounds like something from before Frederic Tudor. They are used at celebrity events.

But really, people are starving in Africa! Can’t the 1% spare this luxury and use the money to help treat AIDs or stop the world ivory trade?

I am not asking for iced Coca Cola in the Amazon just a small redistribution of wealth to those that really are in need of it.

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