What would a morning in Mexico be without atole? To enjoy an “atolito” is one of the most Mexican activities that exist; it is practically a complete breakfast, a food as pleasant for the body as for the soul. With a soupy consistency, this drink is a favorite for early risers, as it gives you the energy to do any kind of heavy work or simply wake up. Historically it has been related to the less favored social classes and for that reason it has bad reputation.
With a pre-Hispanic origin, this product has a word in Nahuatl language: atolli (whasy), although Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, famous Spanish raconteur, explains that it has another meaning: atl (water) and toloa (swallowing), therefore it is considered as a kind of food- drink. Known in spanish as mazamorra, the main ingredient is maize, in any of its varieties, from yellow to black, for Mesoamerican cultures this cereal was considered very important for sacred characteristics.
From the arrival of the Spanish conquerors to Mexico, the atole had developed even more, thanks to the cultural exchange between both nations and the existence of a similar product in Spain known as gachas or puchas, masses made of crushed wheat.
In the book of the General History of the Things of New Spain, there is record of the most important sociocultural characteristics of the drink. Ancient civilizations consumed atole during breakfast because they considered they will receive the energy necessary to carry out heavy workings and granted many nutrients.
The same book mentions they drink it cold or hot and that they obtained it from roasted corn, ground corn, crushed or burnt tortillas, also mixed with beans, chili or honey. The best known is the white atole or iztac, whose preparation does not carry any mixture and is only made from white corn nixtamalizaded and water. The process of nixtamalization consists in the cooking of corn with water and lime (the mineral) usually a metate is used to grind the grains and obtain dough that can be used in many preparations.
There is a great variety of types of atoles, depending on the region one or other ingredient will be used to give a special flavor, an example is the nequatolli, nicuatole or atole with honey, mix with honey of maguey from the state of Oaxaca.
Others are xocoatolli or atole sour, nechillatolli or atole with honey and chili both from Oaxaca, chilliatolli or atole with chili from the chiapanecan region, puzcua or insipid white atole that is prepared in Michoacan and the xacualolli or atole of pumpkin elaborated in the states of Morelos and Tlaxcala, others like chianatolli or atole with chia, ayocomollatolli or atole with beans, michuauhatolli or atole of amaranth, quauhnexatolli or atole with tree ashes, from all around Mexico, the atole can be sweetened with piloncillo, sugar or chocolate.
The habit of regular uptake has been lost, although there‘s still a solid group of interested people in this product, it is difficult to find one of the traditional versions described above, nowadays commercial flavors are offered such as vanilla, strawberry or walnut, that do not correspond to the tradition, therefore it is not considered as a culinary referent by some, so it is very important to spread the fair tradition, which gives us health benefits and comforts our spirit.