Years ago working as an archaeologist in Yucatan, Mexico, I would enjoy an early morning break with the workers on site — I’d drink tea and eat a granola bar and they’d eat atole, a corn porridge. One guy would pull out a ball of white, sticky corn flour and pass out dollops to his chums. Each put the lump in a gourd and poured in a little water, stirring the mixture with his fingers. I asked why they used a gourd and they said atole tasted better in a gourd than a plastic bowl.
Ground up corn meal soaked in water is probably as old as maize agriculture in the New World — over 7,000 years. It was recorded in Maya hieroglyphics as ul. Atole is the Nahuatl (Aztec) word that was spread across the continent by the Spanish, who learned about this food from them first.
Atole consists of one part toasted corn flour (masa harina) boiled in two to five parts water sweetened with honey, brown sugar, or white sugar (1/4–1/2 part) and seasoned with vanilla, cinnamon, or chocolate.