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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Tejate, the Drink of Royalty

This is not the bowl you pass in the market place and think "wow, I really want to drink that".  Add to that the fact that you are definitely cautioned not to drink the water in Mexico.  This prohibition is made somewhat easier by the fact that no one drinks the water, not even people who live there.  But the foam and the color of tejate if off putting to the uninitiated.  We tried it on our last trip to Oaxaca, and it was surprisingly delicious.

Tejate was the drink of Zapotec royalty, and the culture from the pre-colonial times is alive and well in Oaxaca.  It is made of precisely toasted corn, cacao, cinnamon, and the seeds and flowers of a fruit called mamey which has skin like a kiwi and the grainy orange flesh of a yam, but more chalky, and with a central seed the size of a large almond. The tejatera, the woman who makes tejate, several of whom told me all these things, toasts these ingredients perfectly each night before she uses them. Knowing how to do this is a skill passed from mother to daughter tejateras. The cleanliness of the seeds and bowls is vital. Grease or fruit stuck on the mamey seeds will render the whole stew the wrong color and all the other tejeras will scowl.

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