July 13, 2008

How to Beat the Heat, or, Words of the Week: Manteca(d)o and Piragua

It's not really that much hotter in Puerto Rico now as it is the rest of the year, but it's summer here, hence I'm reminded of these things. And it still is pretty hot right now on the island anyways.

Air conditioning is something confined to public spaces rather than private, generally speaking, which basically means the best way to get some is to head to the mall rather than hide in the house. Unless, you know, you're in a hotel, but then why are you staying in your room on vacation? If it's too hot to hit the streets of Old San Juan, there are plenty of museums around to check out. Or you can get a free ride to the beach (until the end of August, anyways).

The vast majority of houses, however, do not have air conditioning. Most do have those window air conditioners (although many times in the wall rather than in a window) or fans. Side note: if you stop using those a/c units, they fill up with cockroaches. You've been warned.

Anyways, if you do decide to go out, there are a couple good ways to handle the heat. Which brings us to the words of this week, which are mantecado and piragua.

Unlike most Spanish-speaking countries, Puerto Rico doesn't use the word helado for ice cream. It's mantecado. They'd figure out you wanted ice cream if you asked for helado, I suppose, but go with mantecado.

Piraguas are basically tropical snow cones. I'm not sure how to explain them more than that. They have them all over Old San Juan in little carts and they are great--my favorite flavor is coconut. The word supposedly comes from the Taíno word for some kind of long boat, but now they're snow cones.

So enjoy your vacation, and keep cool!

5 comments:

Renee said...

This was so confusing for me. In Mexico they say "helado," but one day I was going out with a friend here and he said, "Want some mantecado?" and I was like, "Sure! I've never tried it!" He thought I was the world's most sheltered child until I realized it was ice cream. Apparently if you say "helado," it usually refers to a more water based dessert like sherbet or sorbet. Which makes sense, I suppose, as it reminds you that ice cream is nutritionally closer to butter. Not that it stops me...

Speaking Boricua said...

That's a pretty good story...

At least you didn't mix up the words "cono" and "coño" though, as some have done (thankfully not me!).

kimmy-kun said...

Weird. This sangermeño has never said "mantecado" in his life. It's helado around these parts.

Neffers said...

In Ponce we also say helado. It is very different to what is said in "la loza" (metropolitan area) and what is said in the rest of the island.

When I moved to San Juan I was made fun of because I would refer to the "limber de crema" as "limber de mantecado", and refer to "mantecado" as "helado". We also use the word vellon for 10 cents and ficha for 5 cents, while they refer to 10 cents as dimes and 5 cents as vellones.

I've hear that explanation of helado and mantecado, helado being more like sorbet. However, I've had those same people use mantecado for the sorbet water based desserts!

Anonymous said...

Careful, manteca means heroin and tecato meanss a heroin addict. If I were for some reason in a drug area, I would stick to using helado just to play it safe and prevent your self from getting into a predicament.