Thursday, July 10, 2008

How Tejate captured me

It's gray. Or brown. Or something in between, liquid, with random bits of fluff floating in it, looking like it drained off of something. It's Tejate and, when I first saw it, I couldn't fathom how anyone would be brave enough to try it. It seemed to be what someone might discard on their way to concocting something better. The women mixing it stand over a giant bowl, mushing it around, dipping a painted gourd into its briny depths, excavating sludge to dish over more sludge.

But then Mats!? and Peri and Carrie visited, and had the intent to try Oaxaca's indigenous beverage. I didn't know its story, how it is unique to the region, due to one of the ingredients being the seeds of mamey (not to mention the skins), a local fruit. Other necessary ingredients are toasted corn, cacao, cinnamon, all ground with a metate. I didn't know that it was the drink of Zapotec kings, considered fortifying, medicinal, and even an aphrodisiac.

Peri was the one who dove in, at Abastos market, and got a gourd filled with the stuff. We all sampled it and I realized it didn't taste like old dishwater. I sort of liked it.

At another market a week later, I tried it again. There was a nutty, chocolate taste, but it was the sweet, creamy mamey fluff at the top that was enchanting. That was it. It crept into my bloodstream or overtook my mind, and I started to plan for it, memorizing market days and stalls where my favorite Tejate was brewed.

Tomorrow. Pochote. The woman at the top of the stairs. "Tejate en jircara" for 10 pesos. I'll be there, with a gourd in my hand, searching for that last foamy sip.