Sunday, July 08, 2007

Plenty of Egg, Needs More Nog

The Holla offices are getting a bit hectic as we pack up our reams of meticulously filed notes from various field studies, the presses, the massively disorganized payroll department -- everything -- so we can decamp for Washington in a couple weeks. We of course have a few vital research items to accomplish. Last night, we hosted a going-away party, which the Spanish-speakers of the world, with uncharacteristic efficiency, simply call a "despedida." It was a fantastic evening, with solid representation from chapines and gringos alike, from both the Embassy and Common Hope (where The Lovely Katherine works).

Of course, in our relentless quest to uncover every bit of inside knowledge Guatemala has to offer, and pass it on to you, the loyal reading public, we knew this was our moment to finalize a long delayed task. Guatemala has many legitimate claims to fame, but the sad truth is that their culinary prowess is not among them. But even the cultures with the least enticing cuisine manage to come up with unique potent potables. Some time ago, your correspondent was dispatched to the Highlands of Quetzaltenango and Huehuetenango. In reaching Quetzaltenango, one must pass through the smaller town of Salcajá. There are many towns this size through the country with nary a bibulous product to their name, but somehow, Salcajá is famous for producing two different varieties of distinctive local booze. Your correspondent returned with a bottle of each caldo de fruta ("Fruit Stew") and rompopo. The latter seems the more dangerous, as its primary ingredient is -- no joke -- eggs, which provide its distinctive yellow hue. There are several signs in town advertising rompopo for sale, and after choosing the sincerest rompopería to be seen, your correspondent entered to find a simple room with two glass cases filled with bottles of the vaguely nog-like product, a picture of Jesus, and nothing else. However, the caldo de fruta was sold at the same establishment, but the customer had to specifically as for it, prompting the employee to disappear into a back room and bring out the fruit-filled crimson bottle. In the end, your correspondent could not be sure if he purchased illegal moonshine caldo de fruta or legal moonshine caldo de fruta, but we applaud his willingness to take the risk in the name of journalism.

In the end, the purchased beverages were a bit too vibrantly colored and, in one case, a bit too eggy, to tempt our tastebuds on any given evening. That ended last night, when we shared with our guests/victims the two delicious concoctions. (The rompopo actually says "Delicious Rompopo" right on the label.) Despite the fact that they had languished for about a year in our liquor cabinet, several brave souls stepped up to give them a try.

The verdict? Caldo de fruta tastes exactly like 80-proof Robitussin. And the rompopo? As the winning smile on the face of our test subject shows, rompopo is an acquired taste. You might be able to come close by mixing egg nog with cream of wheat, blending, and then adding some more eggs. Suffice it to say that while we will be returning to the U.S. with a small supply of a number of Guatemalan delicacies, such as coffee and Zacapa rum, we will not be sneaking any bottles of rompopo across the border.

Special thanks to Todd, who was perhaps the most willing of many who risked their lives by drinking rompopo last night. We hope to see him at work on Monday.


MLE said...

Man, that fancy rum is good stuff, but yeah, I'd leave the rompopo behind.

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