There is a dry riverbed that splits Bucerias in half. At least it’s dry most of the year. Where the riverbed runs beneath the main highway it is covered by a bridge that is just high enough to let a good-sized pickup pass beneath and not much more. It is under this bridge that an old man stands everyday selling tejuino, an ancient drink that is as specific to Guadalajara as a torta ahogada.
So it was no big surprise to me that once Carlos filled his belly with his drowned pork sandwich he’d want to quench his thirst with a tejuino. So we drove into Bucerias and slowly drove over the rutted muddy road beneath the bridge until we found Mr. Tejuino and his little cart.
I’ve got to say that Carlos was pretty excited, although when I tell you what a tejuino is, you’ll wonder why. If you’ve ever gone to an authentic Mexican restaurant where they make their own tortillas, you will have seen a woman, usually older rather than younger and stout rather than slim, massaging a big ball of corn masa from which she will pinch golfball-sized chunks and flatten into tortillas.
Well imagine that instead of frying the dough into a tortilla, the woman mixed it with water and piloncillo (the cone-shaped Mexican raw brown sugar), boiled it all up until it was thick as caramel and then allowed it to ferment in a big jug. That, for the most part, is tejuino—sweetened and fermented tortilla juice.
As far as Carlos was concerned, this wasn’t bad tejuino. It just wasn’t as good as the stuff you could get in Guadalajara, he said (everything is better in Guadalajara) where tejuino is “always, always, always served with nieve de limon”—lemon sherbet.
“Frankly,” Carlos said, “tejuino without nieve de limon isn’t really tejuino.”
Then what is it? I asked him.
“It is something,” he said. “It just isn’t tejuino.” Then he pushed the plastic cup in my direction. “Would you like to try it?” he asked.
“I never drink tejuino without the lemon sherbet,” I told him, though I don’t think he heard me as he was slurping the last of his drink through the straw.
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