Who Needs Coffee?

Dear Mexican: I find myself at odds with my peers because I don't like coffee or coffee drinks. I need to find a substitute beverage that will be tasty yet somehow hip. I've heard that Mexicans have magical chocolate drinks called atole, champurrado and chocolate, but I don't know what is in them or what they taste like. Do you have any advice? Thirsty in OC

Dear Gabacho: Coffee is among mankind's most overrated drinks, and has created a nation of babosos who think it's perfectly fine to hacer cola at Starbucks every morning to buy some overpriced chingadera. Mexicans, on the other hand, line up for far-more-flavorful-and-healthy hot drinks every morning. Atole is a gruel made of masa and usually piloncillo (unrefined brown sugar) and cinnamon; Champurrado is atole mixed with chocolate; chocolate (or, in gaba speak, "Mexican hot chocolate) is — you got it! — hot chocolate, except the sweet stuff is of the bitter, better variety instead of some Nestlé heresy. These drinks are sold year-round at panaderías, but most Mexican restaurants in American barrios start whipping up batches come December. Christmastime also brings a seasonal specialty: ponche. Every family has its own ponche recipe; ours includes guayabas, orange, pineapple, apples, cherries, cinnamon, grapes, cloves, piloncillo, tejocotes, and whatever else my tías throw in. And, after the kiddies have their fill, un piquito de tequila, of course!

I was shopping at a swap meet one time, and I saw that a little 12-year-old girl was trying to dress her fresh-from-the-border uncle in some black shades, big ol' baggy pants and a FUBU jersey. Why do border brothers who cannot speak any English at all like to shave their heads and dress like cholos? More of an Affliction Guy

Dear Gabacho: I tengo que take issue with your generalization of our border brothers — if they all dressed like cholos, then Stetson would've been out of business long ago. But if they do dress like cholos, it's just the usual tale of immigrants shedding the traditions of their mother countries and dressing to mimic what's around them. Put them in fancy neighborhoods, they'll dress in Brooks Brothers; put them out in the fields, it's all about jeans and long-sleeved shirts to guard against the sun and pesticides. And put them in gang-infested neighborhoods, and it's no surprise they'll dress like cholos.

 
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