What did the Mayans use to eat?
The exquisite taste that transcends
It is the maximum exponent of prehispanic times and concentrated in southern of Mexico, specifically in places like Merida, Yucatan, Campeche, Quintana Roo and also places like Belize. Yes, we are talking about the quintessential Mayan culture. One that has surprised the world with its architecture and traditions, and now we know some secrets about its gastronomy.
The Mayans were an agricultural society and were known as the “men of corn”. Corn, or as referred to their native language, “Ixim” was the staple food of the Mayan people, and is nowadays used to make tortillas, tamale, atole, pozole and some types of bread… what a treat! Today Mexican culture has adopted this tradition, and like the Mayans, corn has become the base of the most popular dishes of Mexican cuisine.
Did you know that in the state of Yucatan there’s beverage called pozol, known in Mayan as “chucua”, and it’s consumed hot during festivities of Hanal Pixan?
Another essential element in the diet of the Mayan people and the main source of protein were beans, which in the native language are called “bu’ul”. They were mashed and spread onto tortillas to make tacos. The Mayans also prepared and ate beans cooked in soup, used them as flour, and even as a paste for stuffing tamales which were wrapped with “maxán” leaves (green leaves with a unique taste).
After eating only corn and beans, they began to include fruits and vegetables known to most of the people like pumpkin, avocado, papaya and guava. This basic diet has remained the same of centuries!
The Mayans ate foods rich in calories in colder seasons: fall and winter. Surely you’re wondering, how did they flavor their food? They took advantage of every resource the land provided them and they used honey, vanilla, cocoa, and a variety of chiles, from sweet to very spicy.
Did you know that when the Mayans mixed chile, honey and cocoa, they got the drink we know as hot chocolate, which in the native language is called “xocolatl” or “the drink of the gods”?
Even though the meat was not the staple food of the Mayan diet, also consumed, although not as often and much as we do now. First, they began to domesticate some animals for food, like turkey and dog, but their diet also included products from the sea, such as fish, lobster, shrimp and seafood, and a variety of wild animals, such as rabbits, monkeys, armadillo, and more.
As in our modern society, not all Mayans ate the same. The social and economic position determined their diet, and of course, cocoa was one the sacred food of the Mayans and the most expensive. Today we taste details of the Mayan cuisine with delicious dishes like “cochinita pibil” and other dishes of Mexican cuisine.