Natas is a pink shop in the Raval selling handmade ice cream. The pink walls are the same hue as Manuela’s strawberry flavour. Today, the counter is adorned with a tuft of flowers in a vase, soft pink with many small heads. On the walls, there are black and white pictures pixelated to the point of looking textured. The ice cream is not visible, hidden under hefty silver lids – a sign that the ice cream will be good. Any Italian will tell you, shops that have ice cream piled above the limits of the refrigerator are best avoided because to live at that room temperature altitude, the ice cream is filled with chemicals.
No. Manuela, the chef, and partner at Natas has her delicate ice creams out of view. She fashions me a banana split with three scoops: strawberry, chocolate and mint chocolate chip con un toque de sal. Each scoop gets a whoosh of whipped cream on top, a dark cherry with syrup oozing out it and it’s all finished with a flurry of sprinkles.
The strawberry scoop transports me to my Romanian grandmother’s dining room. A small child, sitting at her table, the one with the doily under the glass. While she spoons spumă de căpşuni into my bowl. Something she would make when she had a surplus of highly perishable strawberries on hand. “Wow! How did you get this flavour out of hard Spanish strawberries?” I ask Manuela.
I shop at the greengrocers on Joaquin Costa. I buy everything from there, even the herbs. Try the mint.” She prompts.
She’s used spirulina for colour and it has a distinctive hue. Mint and chocolate is a favourite combination of mine but all too often it trespasses either into toothpastey or else has a hard chemical finish to it. Manuela’s mint chocolate chip is subtle, grassy and sometimes when I happen across a chocolate chip, right next to it there is a tantalizing salt crystal, spiraling through my mouth adding delight.
“This is good. This is really good.”
“Thank you.” She tells me over her shoulder. I walk over to see her adding chopped lemon peel into the white ice cream that is coming out through the grates of a large machine.
“Try this.” She says, handing me a spoonful of it. “This is from a Palestinian lemon tree.”
“What, you got lemons from Palestine?”
“No, the whole lemon tree was a gift from an important someone to the church, it’s in the courtyard in the back. The other day my assistant and I got a ladder and picked lemons.”
My other grandmother was a Palestinian. Both have been conjured up this afternoon in this pink ice cream shop.