¡Popsicle Power!

Few things in life get me more excited than popsicles. Sure, ice cream is exciting too, but ice cream more often than not is a somewhat guilty pleasure. I have been known to finish off a pint of Vanilla Swiss Almond, but each time I take a bite I tell myself it is the last one– until my spoon hits another chocolate covered almond bit, and then I tell myself that the next bite will be the last one. And if, in the middle of the night, I covertly finish off the Trader Joe’s Mint Chocolate Chip, I rationalize it. I had to eat that last portion because I need to make room in the freezer! Sound familiar?

Popsicles are guilt free. Most of the time, they are just sugar water. And because they don’t carry the same kind of luxurious guilt (for me, anyway) I can enjoy them gleefully. Also, I live in Fresno, California, and in the summer temperatures can soar as high as 115° and stay there or near it for a string of hellish days, so I could even argue that popsicles are a necessity.

In those wickedly hot summers, I freeze an entire box of Otter Pops at a time. I designate a pair of my daughter’s blunt tipped scissors to be the Official Otter Pop Snippers, because I don’t know who can actually tear the tops off decently, in a way that doesn’t shred your mouth. Every time we go in or out of the house, we grab an Otter Pop– or one of the Mexican brands that I prefer because they have flavors like banana and mango– and use them as a sort of climate control.

Paletas have received a lot of press lately, and rightly so. They are pretty popular here, and at some grocery stores, right there in the impulse aisle of chewing gums and single sodas are small freezers with paletas. I always go to the checkout line that has the paletas freezer, always. Even if there are ten people in the line, and the next register has two. Popsicles will win every time! My favorite flavor is rice pudding with raisins. You wouldn’t think raisins could possibly be good in a creamy popsicle, but you would be so wrong. Each frozen raisin is like a tiny jewel. But, you know, if you want to be a stick in the mud, you could just get cookies and cream.

When I find an arroz con leche paleta at the grocery store, I make my husband drive so I can sit in the backseat and eat it right away. That's normal, right?
When I find an arroz con leche paleta at the grocery store, I make my husband drive so I can sit in the backseat and eat it right away. That’s normal, right?

If you are lucky, there might be a paleteria in your own town, and it is probably well worth your time to find them. I am lucky enough to have La Reina de Michoacan, which has been around for years. Now there is even a gourmet popsicle cart, Ooh de Lolli, that makes the rounds along with all the local food trucks (and can I just say, thank God for food trucks?). Experimenting with different flavors and local fruits and ingredients lends a certain air of respectability to what used to be a kid culture, you know? I’m relishing it. I am even jealous of New Yorkers who get to try La Newyorkina paletas and so I follow her on Facebook. Does this make me a popsicle stalker? I sure hope there are other paletas and popsicle fanatics out there. So far, the only other person I know he gets such a kick out of it is my father in law, who is known for raiding freezers.

Another thing I like about the recent popularization of paletas is that enthusiasts like myself can even make them at home. I bought a popsicle maker, thinking I could totally just do all this myself. Well, it is fun to experiment, and I was able to use up some coconut milk I had hanging around– but it’s rather labor intensive and I only get two popsicles at a time. Two gloriously tasty and refreshing popsicles that give me a sense of pride and accomplishment– but still, only two. When popsicle consumption is a guilt-free necessity, it seems that the old standards are still the best. I will still be loading up on boxes of Otter Pops and Tampico freezer pops.

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