Santos is a guy in my neighborhood who parks his SUV, sets up his white foldable table and takes out three big orange Gatorade thermoses. Here’s the thing…the thermoses don’t have Gatorade.
I saw this truck set up and I was curious. Not Karen curious…just curious about what he was selling. On one of my work-from-home days, I had to drop off my car for repair, so on my walk home I popped over to the table and got some answers.
“What are you selling?” I asked.
He responded sort of timidly, like he knew I wasn’t going to know what in the world he was about to tell me.
He was right. He told me that he was selling Atole.
“Come again?” Well, that’s what I was saying in my mind. He patiently told me that he was selling Atole de Pina and asked me if I wanted to try some. I told him I didn’t have any cash, but this sweet curator of all things Atole said, “Just pay me next time.”
I closed my eyes and fully took in the experience of the warm, sweet drink with an abundance of pineapple chunks. Honestly, I wonder how I could have lived so long without knowing anything about this. I savored every sip. He said, “Do you want some more?” I decided to take my blessing and then do some research about this comforting flavorsome beverage.
I found out that many Central American countries serve Atole, but it has Mayan roots, so it is generally considered native to Mexico. The Mayans drank it as a corn-based beverage. It’s called Atole de Elote—it’s the O.G. Atole. The traditional drink is usually made with fresh corn, sugar, and water or milk.
Atole has been around for a long time. In fact, 196Flavors.com says that Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes spoke about it in one of his letters calling it a “warm and energetic drink.” Timetabling that bit of information would, at least, put us in the 1500’s. However, that calculation is wrong since that’s just when Atole was recognized by Europeans. It’s really a prehistoric drink from Mayan civilization.
In a later visit with Santos, I bought a cup of the pineapple version (Atole de Pina), but he also gave me a taste of the Atole de Elote. Again, it just gave me the feels. It felt like a warm snuggle up in a cozy blanket
I likened it to corn chowder. Santos agreed. I also asked him if his versions were Salvadoran or Mexican. His was Salvadoran, but there are Guatemalan, Honduran and Caribbean iterations of Atole as well. It is typically eaten with tamales and tortillas.
I experienced a warm corn and pineapple versions, but Atole can be served cold. Atole is also made with fruit like guava, strawberry, and plum. Chileatoles are salty or spicy and are mostly served as a soup or main dish.
Try this Mexican recipe for Atole de Elotte from 196Flavors.com.