Following on from my Mayan Life – Social Order article, this article tells you all you need to know about eating like a Mayan, including a rather useful recipe!
The most important food in a Mayan’s diet was corn, or maize. It was used in a large variety of dishes, and was prepared using nixtamalization. This rather simple process involved soaking and cooking the maize in limewater, although any water that was alkali would do. This process maximised the health benefits as it released niacin, a B vitamin necessary to combat protein deficiency diseases, most specifically Pellagra. Once prepared, this useful crop can be made into anything from tortillas to tamalas. It could also be made into several types of broth. One of these , called atole, was often drunk, while the other, pozole was had ingredients such as turkey, chillies, onion and salt to improve the flavour.
Another staple was beans, usually boiled or mashed inside tortillas to create early forms of burritos. These were another large form of protein, as was the third staple squash. Although commonly foraged in early Mayan history, both were later farmed for convenience and easier distribution. All of the squash was eaten, the flesh raw and the seeds dried and roasted as a yummy, and nutritional snack that is still eaten today!
Squash, maize and beans by themselves can be very boring, and the Mayan people often spiced up their food using onions, chillies, cocoa, vanilla and salt. To accompany and improve the staple meals of tortillas, beans and squash, they also grew avocado, papaya, tomatoes and sweet potato. Despite lacking a lot of food people today take for granted, for example rice and beef, the Mayans had a very well balanced diet.
The Mayans lacked a large amount of meat people in England today feel they couldn’t survive without, but they still had a rather large food pool to choose from. Turkeys, ducks and also dogs were bred and raised for food. In addition to this, the huge jungles they called home offered a large resource of edible meat, including rabbits, armadillos, monkeys, tapirs and macaws. Despite this large range, meat was rarely used by the Mayan people and the most commonly used was turkey. Soups made of turkey played a large part in many traditional Mayan ceremonies and festivals.
Although it seems surprising, the yummy and cosy drink hot chocolate actually dates from the Mayan times, and it is believed that they were the first to drink cocoa. They prepared the drink by grinding cocoa beans into a paste and mixing it with water, chilli peppers and cornmeal. It was then poured from glass to jug and back until it developed into a thick froth, before being drank cold. Another Mayan drink was a kind of wine made from honey. This luscious sounding drink was actually prepared by the women taking mouthfuls of the unfermented wine and swilling around their mouths before spitting it back out! This meant the wine had the necessary germs needed to ferment properly. Sounds disgusting, right?
Now, if you still fancy it after that delightful insight into Mayan drinks, there is a very easy way to prepare an entire Mayan banquet! Below, you will find both ingredients and method for a yummy and historical meal!
- Doritos (Cheese flavour works best!)
- Cheddar cheese
- Chilli Powder
- Refried beans
- Baking tray
- Greaseproof paper
For 3 Quesadillas you will need:
- 150g Flour (Preferably maize, but ordinary flour will do)
- 25g Lard
- 90ml Warm water
- Heavy frying pan
- Green chilli (optional)
Recipe for Nachos:
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
- Place a layer of Doritos on the bottom of the baking tray.
- On top of the Doritos, put a layer of sliced tomato. Make sure these slices aren’t too thin, or they will completely fall apart and you will lose some of the flavour!
- Next, grate some cheese on top of the tomato. Make sure the tomato is completely covered to get the best results!
- Now, repeat steps two to four on top of the layer of cheese.
- Sprinkle chilli powder on top of the cheese. The amount can vary depending on how spicy you like your food!
- Bake in a medium oven for ten minutes, till the cheese is melted and the Doritos have gone slightly brown looking.
- Put both Nachos and Quesadillas on to a table and eat off of the serving dishes, or serve onto plates and enjoy with refried beans to dip!
Recipe for Quesadillas:
- Heat the frying pan until water sprinkled on it sizzles.
- Mix the lard, flour and water into dough.
- Roll it thin enough that you can see the surface you are working on underneath.
- Cut out a 20-25cm circle of dough.
- Pop onto the frying pan. You know you’ve got it right if the dough begins to bubble!
- After 40 seconds, turn over and fry the other side for 30 seconds.
- Put the tortillas on a plate to one side, to be used later!
- Slice the ham into thin strips.
- Slice the onion into thin strips
- If you like your food a little hotter, then slice some green chilli to be added.
- Grate 75g of cheese, and divide it into three portions of 25g.
- Put one of your tortillas back into the frying pan, and sprinkle 25g of the grated cheese into an even layer.
- Sprinkle the onion, ham, and if you have it chilli on top of the cheese.
- Place another tortilla on top.
- Heat for a couple of minutes until the cheese begins to melt.
- Flip over and heat for another minute.
- Once it’s cooked, put it onto a cool plate and repeat the above steps until all the tortillas are gone.
- You can either eat these whole, or chop into triangular portions, to go with your Nachos!
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do, and can agree with me that that Mayan munchies are magnificent!