Ice Cream Fresh From Your Local Volcano

Ibarra, Ecuador

I have always been curious as to how Ecuador got its name. I don’t mean the bit about the Equator running through the country. I get that. The thing that fascinates me is that the Equator also runs through eleven other countries, yet only Ecuador is named after it.

How is it that only Ecuador got the title? Does this just come down to a worldwide game of “I call dibs” which Ecuador won? Perhaps it was a lack of creative thinking type people who name their towns “Mountain View” because they have a view of a mountain. Ecuadorans may have just wanted to help the geographically challenged find their country on a map.

My renewed preoccupation with Ecuador comes from my discovering a special ice cream made only in the town of Ibarra, Ecuador. Helados de paila (ice cream from a copper pan) is made using a unique method developed by a 17-year-old Ecuadoran girl back in 1897.

Rosalía's grandson Ramiro Paredes mixes up another batch of ice cream.

Over 100 years ago, young Rosalía Suárez would make her way to the local volcano, gather snow and ice and bring it back to town. Using a wooden spoon, she would mix the ingredients for her ice cream (really more of a sorbet) by spinning a copper pan over a bed of straw and the volcano’s ice in a larger pan.

While Rosalía has long since passed, her unique method for making ice cream lives on. You can get a cup of helados de paila throughout Ibarra, but the best place to go is Heladería Rosalía Suárez. It’s Rosalía’s original shop (the most famous in Ecuador) and is still run by her descendants.

If you ever find your way to Ibarra to enjoy some helados de paila, could you take a moment and ask an Ecuadoran how the country got its name? It would really ease my mind.

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