MORN­ING IN THE HIGH­LANDS

SAVEUR - - (re)consider The Lobster -

On chilly morn­ings in Gu­atemala’s high­land markets, shop­pers and ven­dors stay warm with steam­ing cups of atol. Made from ground corn with fla­vor­ings rang­ing from cin­na­mon to black beans, the thick Maya drink has the creamy den­sity and cus­tardy sweet­ness of eggnog. There are count­less ver­sions, some of which are served along with an old wives’ tale: It’s said that if a pot of tra­di­tional atol de elote (made from young corn) is on the stove sim­mer­ing and a preg­nant woman en­ters the kitchen, the atol will cur­dle and the batch will have to be re­made. In a hardy vari­a­tion called atol tres cocimien­tos (atol cooked three ways), corn ker­nels are toasted on the stove­top, then soaked in wa­ter that’s been sea­soned with a spoon­ful of ashes from the fire (lend­ing a hint of smoke), then boiled. At most markets you’ll see ven­dors ladling the stuff into Sty­ro­foam cups, for about two quet­zals (25 cents) each. (See page 72 for an adapted ver­sion of Cobán na­tive Fredy Archila’s fam­ily recipe.)

SELL­ING ATOL, A WARM, THICK CORN DRINK, IN QUETZALTENANGO’S MAR­KET. OP­PO­SITE: A STEAM­ING POT OF SUBAN-IK, A HEN STEW LOCAL TO SAN MARTÍN JILOTEPEQUE.

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