For Baltimoreans, it's a rude awakening to move to or visit other parts of the country and discover that our beloved summer institution, snowballs, are virtually unknown.
As it turns out, the frozen treat has a long history specific to Charm City: In the late 1800s, Baltimore kids besieged ice trucks driving from New York to the South and begged for ice shavings on hot summer days. Their moms made flavorings—the most common was egg custard, because it was so simple: eggs, vanilla, and sugar—to pour over the ice.
During the Great Depression, when money was tight and ice cream in short supply, snowballs exploded in popularity. Over time, everyone forgot about them.
These days, there are snowball purveyors all over town and styles range from the classic chunky crushed ice to the smoother "Hawaiian" style. Everybody thinks the one on their corner is the best.
"We serve the traditional shaved-ice style," says Justin Wheeler, managing partner of Catonsville's Tastee Zone, considered one of the best vendors in town. "Cherry and chocolate do okay, but egg custard is still by far the most popular."