It's summer in Lima. The days are hot and they are long. The sun pushes you down with its full force, as if a heavy weight on your shoulders, and the humid air is thick like treacle. The gentle sea breeze along the cliffs of the Costa Verde in Miraflores seems to disappear during the hottest hours of the day, just when it is needed most. Ice cream sellers whistle as they ride by on their ice cream dispensing bikes… but you are thirsty and a thick ice cream won't refresh you beyond the 30 seconds it takes to devour it. What is there that can save you from collapsing into a heap in the middle of the street?
A cremolada, a cremolada from the home of cremoladas, a cremolada from Curich.
Somewhere between an ice cream and a cool drink, the cremolada is essentially iced fruit juice that can be spooned into the mouth. As it is mostly frozen liquid it combats thirst as well as being refreshingly cold. This is not the ice-on-a-stick wrapped in plastic you buy in shops which is really just a frozen sickly syrup – we are talking about healthy fresh fruit and water.
The Curich family are a little know Peruvian institution, just as the cremolada is. Their story begins in Croatia, or rather it begins when, like so many others, the father of the Curich's in Peru fled his native country at the onset of World War II. He set up home in the northern region of Tumbes and raised a family.
Tumbes is hot. Very hot. To get through the day, the Curich's would freeze the juice of various abundant local fruits to grind up and consume. By selling the icy beverage to sweating locals the family made a decent living. The Curich's place in central Tumbes grew in fame from its founding in 1941, becoming the heart of the town and remaining so until disaster struck in 1999.
"We had a restaurant in Tumbes since 1941, but it closed in 99, after some extreme rainfall brought on by El Niño. It was called Curich and it was very traditional. The cremoladas are very popular drinks in the north, and so was our restaurant and ice cream bar. It was in the Plaza de Armas, and the people used to say 'If you haven't been to Curich, you haven't been to Tumbes'. Everyone came to Curich, from the President of the Republic to the whore of the town", explains Troika Curich who now runs the small Curich locale in Miraflores. Cremoladas were now widely enjoyed across the country – in the sweltering jungle regions the name Curich even became synonymous with icy treats.
From Jirón Bolognesi in Miraflores, a stone's throw from Puente Villena that crosses the slope down to the beaches, the family still serve their cremoladas, and are inundated with customers all summer long.
"In the 1970s we came to Lima, and my brother suggested to my father that they open an ice cream shop here. Our ice creams were really good, but expensive and didn't catch on. So we said, 'Lets do the cremoladas', and they were a success. We had a locale where we are now and also one next door that was a restaurant and piano bar. Eventually my brother moved on to another career and it had to close. But I later reopened it because we had gained many customers who came only to be met with closed doors. They would ring the bell asking for cremoladas! So I just reopened and didn't need to advertise anything. People would arrive here, only to call their friends to tell them we reopened. News spread by word of mouth", Troika Curich recalls.
In peak season, Curich sells as many as 52 flavours of cremolada – a testament to how many varieties of tasty fruits Peru is blessed with.
"We've been trying for ages to do a cremolada with the chirimoya fruit, but so far we haven't got the right mix. There are difficult fruits like the plum mango, the guanábana, the lúcuma. But working with fruits is nice, because you always smell nice! If you come during our production phase, the whole block smells of fruit. The Pechiche from the north for example is scandalous, you can smell it from miles away!".
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