Maya cuisine


Maya cuisine

Ancient Maya cuisine was varied and extensive. Many different types of resources were consumed, including maritime, flora, and faunal material, and food was obtained or produced through a host of strategies, such as hunting, foraging, and large-scale agricultural production. Plant domestication focused on several core foods, the most important of which was maize.

To fight these deficiencies, the Maya adopted a number of adaptive techniques that, if necessary, allowed for the clear-cutting of land and re-infused the soil with nutrients. Primary among these was slash and burn, or swidden, agriculture, a technique that cleared and temporarily fertilized the area to be cultivated. For example, the introduction of ash into the soil raised the soil’s pH, which in turn raised the content of a variety of nutrients, especially phosphorus, for a short period of time, which may be around two years long. However, the soil will not be suitable for planting for as many as ten years. This technique, common throughout the Maya area, is still practiced today in the Maya region. Complementing swidden techniques was crop rotation and milpa farming, which were employed to maintain soil viability and increase the variability of cultivated crops.

Contents

Staples

Varieties of maize

Maya diet focused on four primary domesticated crops (staple foods): maize, squash, beans (typically tepary beans or common beans) and chili peppers. The first three cultivates are commonly referred to in North America as the "Three Sisters" and, when incorporated together in a diet, complement one another in providing necessary nutrients. Paramount among the three, maize (corn) was the central component to the diet of the ancient Maya, and figured prominently in Maya mythology and ideology. Maize was used and eaten in a variety of ways, but was always nixtamalized. Nixtamalization (a term that derives from the Nahuatl word for the process), is a procedure in which maize is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution. This releases niacin, a necessary B vitamin (vitamin B3) that prevents pellagra and reduces incidents of protein deficiency.

Once nixtamalized, maize was typically ground up on a metate and prepared in a number of ways. Tortillas, cooked on a comal and used to wrap other foods (meat, beans, etc.), were common and are perhaps the best-known pre-Columbian Mesoamerican food. Tamales consist of corn dough, often containing a filling, that are wrapped in a corn husk and steam-cooked. Both atole and pozole were liquid based gruel-like dishes that were made by mixing ground maize (hominy) with water, with atole being denser and used as a drinking source and pozole having complete big grains of maize incorporated into a turkey broth. Though these dishes could be consumed plain, other ingredients were added to diversify flavor, including, for example, chili peppers, cacao, wild onions, and salt.

An alternative view is that manioc was the easily-grown staple crop of the Maya and that maize was revered because it was prestigious and harder to grow.[1] This proposal was based on the inability of maize to meet the nutritional needs of densely populated Maya areas. Manioc can meet those needs. Because tuberous manioc rarely survives in the archaeological record, evidence for this view has been lacking, although recent finds in volcanic ash at the southern Maya site of Joya de Cerén in El Salvador may be such evidence.[2]

Several different varieties of beans were grown, including pinto, red, and black beans. Other cultivated crops, including fruits, contributed to the overall diet of the ancient Maya, including tomato, chili peppers, avocado, breadnut, guava, guanabana, mamey, papaya, pineapple, pumpkin, sweet potato, and xanthosoma. Chaya was cultivated for its green leaves. Chayote was cultivated for its fruit, and its tender green shoots were used as a vegetable. Various herbs were grown and used, including vanilla, epazote, achiote (and the annatto seed), white cinnamon, hoja santa, avocado leaf, garlic vine, “Mexican” oregano, "Mexican" anise, and allspice

Meats

Hunting supplied the Maya with their main source of meat, though several animals, such as dog and turkey, may have been domesticated. Animals hunted for meat, as well as for other purposes, include deer, manatee, armadillo, tapir, peccary, monkey, other types of fowl, turtle, and iguana. The Maya diet was also supplemented by the exploitation, at least in coastal areas, of maritime resources, including fish, lobster, shrimp, conch, and other shellfish.

Other

The Mayans are believed to be the first people to have discovered and cultivated the cacao plant for food. They ground the cacao beans up and mixed them with chili peppers, cornmeal, and honey to create a drink called xocolatl (which is Nahuatl). Just the rich and noble could drink this. They also used cacao beans as a ceremonial sacrifice to their gods.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Bronson, Bennet (1966). "Roots and the Subsistence of the Ancient Maya". Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 22: 251–279. 
  2. ^ Atwood, Roger (2009). "Maya Roots". Archaeology 62 (4): 18. 

References


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cuisine of the Thirteen Colonies — North American colonies 1763–76 The cuisine of the Thirteen Colonies includes the foods, eating habits, and cooking methods of the British colonies in North America before the establishment of the United States in the 1770s and 1780s. It was… …   Wikipedia

  • Cuisine of Guatemala — The cuisine of Guatemala reflects the multicultural nature of Guatemala, in that it involves food that differs in taste depending on the region. Guatemala has 22 departments (or divisions), each of which has very different food varieties. For… …   Wikipedia

  • Maya (illusion) — Maya (Sanskrit माय māyaa[›]), in Indian religions, has multiple meanings, usually quoted as illusion , centered on the fact that we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it, created by us. Maya is the principal deity …   Wikipedia

  • Maya Zankoul — Born 30 June 1986 (1986 06 30) (age 25) Hasbaya, Lebanon …   Wikipedia

  • Maya Evans — Born December 18, 1979 (1979 12 18) (age 31) Cooking style vegan Maya (Anne) Evans (born December 18, 1979) is a British peace campaigner who was arrested alongside fellow activist Milan Rai in October 2005 opposite the Cenotaph war memorial …   Wikipedia

  • Maya Hotel Jalandhar (Jalandhar) — Maya Hotel Jalandhar country: India, city: Jalandhar (City) Maya Hotel Jalandhar Offering comfortable accommodation and quality services, this property is an ideal place for business or leisure travellers and for those who want to explore… …   International hotels

  • Maya Internacional — (Flores,Гватемала) Категория отеля: 4 звездочный отель Адрес: Avenida del Periferico, Calle …   Каталог отелей

  • Maya civilization — This article is about the pre Columbian Maya civilization. For a discussion of the modern Maya, see Maya peoples. For other meanings of the word Maya, see Maya …   Wikipedia

  • Maya (mother of Buddha) — Queen Māyā s white elephant dream, and the conception of the Buddha. Gandhara, 2 3rd century CE. Queen Māyā of Sakya (Māyādevī) was the birth mother of the historical Gautama Buddha, Siddhārtha of the Gautama gotra, and sister of Mahāpajāpatī… …   Wikipedia

  • Cuisine of Belize — The people of Belize of all ethnicities eat wide variety of foods. Breakfast consists of bread, flour tortillas, or fry jacks that often homemade. It is eaten with various cheeses, refried beans, various forms of eggs or cereal, topped off by… …   Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.