Foods of the Maya World
2012 10 01

By Michael Shapiro | NationalGeographic.com




We may not realize it, but many of our favorite foods—from guacamole to tamales to chocolate—were discovered, developed, and refined centuries ago in the Maya world. Here are a few of our favorites.

Chocolate

Cacao is endemic to the lands of the Maya, who were the first to take the seeds of the fruit and roast them to make hot chocolate. The ancient Maya didn’t make candy bars, nor did they add sugar and milk to the cacao. Instead they took their chocolate as a ceremonial elixir and a savory mood enhancer.

For the Maya, cacao was a sacred gift of the gods, and cacao beans were used as currency. Ek Chuah, the Maya god of merchants and trade, was also the patron of the cacao crop. When the Spanish invaded Maya lands in the 1500s, they adopted the beverage, adding sugar and milk to make it sweet and creamy. To learn more about cacao and taste chocolate, visit the Ecomuseo del Cacao in the Puuc region of Yucatán, www.ecomuseodelcacao.com.

Avocados and Guacamole

The avocado, originating in southern Mexico and Guatemala, is loved for its rich taste and creamy texture and was a treasured crop of the ancient Maya. Even today a person from Antigua Guatemala is called a panza verde, or green belly, because of the region’s reliance on avocados in hard times.

Combined with chilis, garlic, cilantro, onions, and lime or lemon, avocados become guacamole, a sumptuous appetizer. Don’t expect to find lots of Hass avocados in the Maya world—there are many other varieties, most of which are bigger.

In 1917, Wilson Popenoe, a California Avocado Association explorer, reported why Guatemalan avocados are best: “The flesh is of a deeper yellow color, smoother, more buttery [in] texture, and richer [in] flavor than any varieties yet known in the United States.”

Poc Chuc

This distinctly Yucatecan dish dates to the days before refrigeration, when meat was preserved with salt. Slow-cooked pork is combined with sour orange juice and vinegar to temper the saltiness of the meat. The orange juice refreshes the salted pork and gives it a tangy flavor—“sour orange” is a variety of orange; the juice hasn’t gone sour. The dish is topped with onions sauteed with coriander and a bit of sugar.

Julio Bermejo of Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant in San Francisco, which serves Yucatecan specialties, says his favorite restaurant in Yucatán is Restaurante El Príncipe Tutul-Xiu, in Maní: “They make the best poc chuc on Earth!”
Michelada

Southern Mexicans like to add some spice to their food—and their beer. A michelada (or chelada in some parts) infuses cerveza with lime, coarse salt, pepper, and shots of Worcestershire and/or Tabasco sauce, served in a chilled, salt-rimmed glass. Some versions also include soy sauce or Maggi seasoning. It sounds odd, but it’s refreshing and well suited to a hot day—or a rough morning.

If the spices sound a bit much, try a simple version, which blends just lime juice and salt with a light beer, like Corona or Tecate. It’s so popular that Miller and Budweiser have created their own versions of michelada, but of course there’s nothing like the real thing.

Corn Tortillas

Handmade Guatemalan tortillas provide an elemental satisfaction. In outdoor markets, you can hear a rhythmic clapping as women pat them into shape, then cook them on a comal, a big wood-fired iron or clay pan that looks like a Caribbean steel drum. These tortillas are only three or four inches across but thicker than what North Americans are accustomed to.

The Maya creation myth says people were made of masa (corn dough), and this remains the essential element of the indigenous Maya diet. Hot off the comal, tortillas are immensely satisfying, an ideal accompaniment to Guatemalan black beans, a perfect base for a layer of guacamole.

[...]


Read the full article at: nationalgeographic.com





Related Articles
Ancient Mayan ritual gets a rebirth in Yucatan
The World’s Largest Chocolate Sculpture - Ancient Mayan Temple (weighs 18,000 lbs)
Oldest known Maya calendar found in Guatemala "Patterns In The Sky"
What Makes Chocolate So Irresistible? A New Study Hints at an Answer
Chocolate found on 2,500-year-old plate


Latest News from our Front Page

Fukushima radiation killing children, government hiding the truth
2014 04 22
Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba, a town near the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant, is warning his country that radiation contamination is affecting Japan’s greatest treasure - its children. Asked about government plans to relocate the people of Fatuba to the city of Iwaki, inside the Fukushima prefecture, Idogawa criticized the move as a "violation of human rights." Compared with Chernobyl, radiation ...
Why your fingerprints may not be unique
2014 04 22
Assumption that everyone has a unique fingerprint from which they can be identified through a computer database is flawed, says Home Office expert Mike Silverman Fingerprint evidence linking criminals to crime scenes has played a fundamental role in convictions in Britain since the first forensic laboratory was set up in Scotland Yard in 1901. But the basic assumption that everyone has a ...
Asteroids cause dozens of nuclear-scale blasts in Earth’s atmosphere
2014 04 22
Asteroids caused 26 nuclear-scale explosions in the Earth’s atmosphere between 2000 and 2013, a new report reveals. Some were more powerful – in one case, dozens of times stronger – than the atom bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 with an energy yield equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT. Most occurred too high in the atmosphere to cause any serious damage ...
‘Editing DNA’ to eliminate genetic conditions now a reality
2014 04 22
Scientists have employed a revolutionary genome-editing computer technique that accurately identifies one faulty genetic “letter” among billions and effortlessly repairs a genetic condition in animals, paving way for human trials. The success, by MIT in Boston, is the latest achievement in the field of genome editing that has been catapulted into the spotlight through a technology that can pinpoint genetic faults ...
EU should ’undermine national homogeneity’ says UN migration chief
2014 04 22
The EU should "do its best to undermine" the "homogeneity" of its member states, the UN’s special representative for migration has said. Peter Sutherland told peers the future prosperity of many EU states depended on them becoming multicultural. He also suggested the UK government’s immigration policy had no basis in international law. He was being quizzed by the Lords EU home affairs sub-committee ...
More News »