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Aguas, atole, aguardiente, cafe, chocolate, compuestos, destilados, pulque, tejate, tepache, and té, oh my! Those are only fraction of the 72 beverages (alcoholic and non) found in the eight regions of the state of Oaxaca and featured in the “hot off the press” book, Bebidas de Oaxaca. Authors, Salvador Cueva and Ricardo Bonilla spent a year traveling up and down and over and through the mountains, valleys, and coastal regions of this most diverse, both geographic and cultural, state.

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Ricardo Bonilla and Salvador Cueva.

They met the indigenous men and women whose families have handed down through countless generations the recipes for everyday and ceremonial beverages. Most of all they got to know, learn from, and appreciate the people and their traditions. A poem, composed and recited by Emma Méndez García from Huatla de Jiménez, expressed the pride and strength of the rich cultures of those who contributed their time, histories, and knowledge to the project.

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Emma Méndez García (Huautla de Jiménez) reciting the poem she wrote in honor of the occasion.

The relationship the authors developed with their subjects was obvious at Saturday afternoon’s book presentation at the gloriously dilapidated and magical Proyecto Murguia (site of the 2012 El Sueño de Elpis). They presented each of the cocineras and cocineros featured in the book with the book, a book bag, a mug, and much gratitude and appreciation.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Jovita López Cruz (Unión Nacional Zafra), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Carina Santiago (Teotitlán del Valle), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Catalina Chávez Lucas (Tlacolula de Matamoros), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Reyna Mendoza (Teotitlán del Valle), and Salvador Cueva.

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Ricardo Bonilla, Celia Florian (La Ciénega, Zimatlán), and Salvador Cueva.

Following the formal presentations, 20 of the beverages were free to sample and purchase directly from their makers.

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Mezcal from Graciela Ángeles Carreño (Santa Catarina Minas).

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Pinole prepared by Elisa León Pérez (Santa Catarina Ixtepeji).

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Estella serving Chocolateatole con cacao blanco by Carina Santiago (Teotitlán del Valle).

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Tepache con rojo by María Díaz Cortés and Juana Gallardo Jiménez (Santa María Tlahuitoltepec).

Bebidas de Oaxaca is available in Spanish and English and in hard and softbound editions. For information regarding purchasing the book, go to their website. Or, if you are in Oaxaca city, attend the book talk at La Jícara (Porfirio Díaz 1105) on Thursday evening, March 5, 2020 at 7:00 PM. A percentage of the sales of the book will go to the Bebidas de Oaxaca foundation to support the people and families who participated in the book.

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This morning, the Feria del Tejate y el Tamal opened at the Plaza de la Danza — with live music, speeches, scores of tejate and tamal vendors, and hundreds of happy, hungry people.  In the event you are unfamiliar with tejate (which is probably the case if you have never been to Oaxaca), it is a very popular frothy, refreshing, nutritious, and (supposedly) aphrodisiacal non-alcoholic prehispanic beverage.  It is made from corn mixed with tree ash, cacao beans, mamey seeds, rosita de cacao (Quararibea funebris) flowers, and peanuts or pecans (depending on the season).

 

 

The preparation takes at least twelve hours, as the beans, seeds, flowers, and nuts must be toasted on a comal and corn must be nixtamalized.  Ingredients are taken to a molino to be milled, then kneaded together, left to cool, eventually being hand-ground on a metate to make a thick paste — which is what one sees in the mercados being thinned with water and (literally) mixed by hand.  For a blow-by-blow photo essay of the process, check out Making Tejate for the Market.

 

 

In days gone by, this exquisite beverage was reserved solely for Zapotec royalty.  However, today tejate is for the masses, with tejateras and their massive clay ollas set up at almost every mercado and festival you run across.  One frequently sees tejate poured into colorfully painted gourds and, of course, it tastes even better when served that way!

 

 

The sale of tejate is the main economic activitity in San Andrés Huayapam, located about 7 miles northeast of Oaxaca city.  It is prepared and served by the tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate.  At the Feria, many of the tejateras were young — it is good to see the ancestral recipes and skills being passed down to the next generation.

 

 

The Feria del Tejate y el Tamal runs through tomorrow (July 26, 2017).  If you are in town, don’t miss it!  Oh yes, there were tamales, so stay tuned…

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Nothing like stopping in Mercado Benito Juárez at Casilda Aguas Regionales midway through a morning filled with errands.  The posted list of fruit drinks is mind boggling:  Horchata, horchata con tuna, guanabana, melón, limón, sandía, jamaica, limón on chía, tamarindo, piña guayaba, kiwi, coco, crema de coco, durazno, ciruela, lichie, mandarina, mango, and maracuya.P1260091

Translated:  Rice-based drink, rice-based drink with prickly pear cactus fruit, soursop, cantaloupe, lime, watermelon, hibiscus, lime with chia, tamarind, pineapple, guava, kiwi, coconut, coconut cream, peach, plum, lychee, mandarin orange, mango, and passion fruit.

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What to choose?  While I love horchata con tuna, I chose the unlisted limón con hoja santa (2nd from left in top photo) reeled off by the waitress.  It was a lime with “sacred leaf” kind of day.  Ahhh… the pause that refreshes!

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Oaxacan cuisine, with its pre-Columbian roots, is a major attraction and the state’s tourism board and restaurant association continue to do their utmost to promote this cultural heritage during the Guelaguetza festivities.  Last Friday, set amidst the beauty and tranquility of the Jardín Etnobotánico, it was the opening degustación (sampling) for the Festival de los Moles.       P1110341This was my fourth time attending this buffet luncheon celebrating the 7 moles of Oaxaca.  And, like the previous years, my plate was swimming in moles and I came away sated and smiling!

P1110337 The Expo Feria del Queso y Quesillo in Reyes Etla beckoned on Saturday.  When we arrived, students from the Universidad Tecnológica de los Valles Centrales de Oaxaca were giving a demonstration on the cheese making process.

P1110422Despite how tempting the various cheeses looked, I only managed tiny tastes of a couple; Alas, I was just too full from the previous day’s feast to fully appreciate them.

P1110426However, by Sunday, my mouth was watering for wild mushroom empanadas, but we were foiled in our attempt to head up into the mountains for the Feria Regional de los Hongos Silvestres in San Antonio Cuajimoloyas.  A bike race had closed the highway and several of the major streets getting into and out of my part of town and, as you can imagine, alternate routes were gridlocked.  Grrrr…  I think the Guelaguetza events committee needs to rethink the schedule and transportation logistics!

Lucky for me, the Plaza de la Danza is only a block and a half from Casita Colibrí and so, late this morning, there were no impediments to walking over to the 10th Annual Feria del Tejate y el Tamal.  The women from the municipality of San Andrés Huayapam (about 7 kilometers northeast of the city), were ready and waiting to welcome visitors with their ancient drink and variety of tamales.

P1120599 The leis the women (above) are wearing are made from Rosita de Cacao flowers, one of the ingredients in tejate.  For the uninitiated, tejate is a foamy, quite refreshing, and nutritious non-alcoholic pre-Columbian beverage made from nixtamal corn, mixed with tree ash, toasted cacao beans, mamey seeds, and Rosita de Cacao flowers and is called, “la bebida de los Dioses” (the drink of the Gods).

P1120562The tejateras of the Unión de Mujeres Productoras del Tejate prepared and served their tejate to inquiring novices and aficionados, alike.  The sale of tejate is the main economic activity in San Andrés Huayapam.

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And then there were the tamales… Pots and baskets, covered with hand embroidered and crocheted tea towels, were filled with steaming tamales nestled in corn husks — verde, chapulin, amarillo, frijol, dulce, rajas, chepil, and chichilo.  If you’ve never tasted tamales in Oaxaca, you are missing something!

P1120551Huayapam’s chichilo tamales are well-known and loved.  Chichilo is one of the seven moles of Oaxaca and it is only served on special occasions, such as weddings and christenings or when the crops have been harvested.  It is made from chilhuacle negro, mulatto, and pasilla chiles; blackened tortillas and seeds of the chiles; and avocado leaves, the latter imparting a subtle anise flavor.  Of course, no tamal festival would be complete without mole tamales wrapped in banana leaves…

P1120557Today and tomorrow (July 22 & 23), if you are in Oaxaca, the Plaza de la Danza is THE happening place for tasting some delicious local specialties between 10:00 AM and 8:00 PM.  ¡Buen provecho!

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