I drove to the Rancho Liborio supermarket, the scene of my earlier failure to purchase a mango smoothie. This time I was prepared. I had crafted a perfect Spanish sentence and rehearsed it two dozen times: "Deseo una agua fresca con mango, por favor." ((I desire a smoothie with mango, please.) What could be more clear and succinct? When Hemingway lived in Cuba, he would have been proud to have spoken such a fine and true request.
I entered the supermarket and walked straight to the counter under the big sign that said Aguas Frescas. (The sign had apparently escaped my attention on the previous visit.) I saw the same small, plump woman that had served me before. She and a tall black-haired woman were back at a long metal table, busy chopping melons into chunks. The small, plump woman came to the counter smiling. (Let's call her Maria for the sake of convenience.)
I said hello to Maria and then recited my Spanish line. She appeared to be puzzled, looked back at the tall woman, and said something about "mango." The tall woman shook her head and replied, "No mango."
This setback did not rattle me, for I had taken the precaution of learning the Spanish word for strawberry: "fresa." I smiled and offered "fresa" as my alternate choice in place of the unavailable mango. Maria responded with a question whose meaning eluded me entirely, except that I heard her repeat the word "fresa." It seemed best to nod and agree. Maria asked me something about "crema." I guessed, correctly as it turned out, that this meant "cream." Cream seemed like an appropriate ingredient in a strawberry smoothie. I nodded again.
Maria flew into action. She gathered great handfuls of strawberries from the bin, took them to the metal table, and hacked them with a cleaver. After pouring a big slug of heavy cream into a tall plastic cup, she filled the cup to the rim with the strawberry chunks. A quick spritz of whipped cream was added as a topper. She handed me the result: a good pound and a half of strawberries and cream. I paid the bill for 4 dollars and departed, totally flummoxed once again. Gracias and adios.
Ah, but Maria has not seen the last of this gringo. I will have my smoothie yet.