Juan of Words

Atole de Teja: Sun Flower Seed Porridge

It had been years since I’d had a cup of Atole de Teja!  This past weekend, though, while we were visiting my parents – as I try to do at least once a week – my mother asked ¿No quieres un atolito de teja?  I had to think for a second to remember which one of the dozens of Mexican atoles my mom likes to make this one was.  As soon as I remembered the answer was YES!!

Atole de Teja, which I’m translating as Sunflower Seed Porridge – that’s the closest word I could find to atole – is made up of several ingredients including cinnamon sticks and Mexican powdered brown sugar, better known as piloncillo at our house.  The texture of this just-sweet-enough drink is pretty thick and smooth.  It’s color is usually a dark gray or black.

Girasol (sunflower) seeds are used to make the Atole de Teja.

Now this particular atole de teja was made from fresh Mexican sunflower seeds (semillas de girasol) my mother purchased on her most recent trip to our rancho.  I’ve only seen it made with sunflower seeds from Mexico… not sure if you can make it with other sunflower seeds, but I would think so??

Once it's done it's a little thick and looks like this.

My first instinct was to take pictures and save them for this post, but before I knew it my cup was empty and my lips and teeth were all black.  That’s the thing about atole de teja – it’s kind of messy and probably not the kind of drink you want to drink before an important meeting or get together.

Mmmm... I want some now!

Instead, there are very specific occasions when you’re supposed to have a nice hot cup of sunflower seed porridge.  The lady in the video these pictures are from (Engracia Gonzalez – what an awesome name), who is coincidentally also from San Luis Potosi, says atole de teja is prepared and served at posadas, levantadas (a religious celebration) and the day after Three Kings Day.  We’ve had it at Christmas and funerals as well… or just as a treat when my jefita comes back from Mexico now too.

A little while later that day my younger brother walked in the door.  My mother greeted him with the same offer.  He looked a little confused too for a second, then I told him it’s the black atole.  He said yeah, I haven’t had that in years!  Now my mom is convinced she needs to return to Mexico to purchase more Mexican sunflower seeds.

I may beat her to the punchline if I can find these seeds at the local marqueta first!

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