The Preperation of Maize and other Food
Maize had to be pretreated by way of nixtamalization. This was a procedure where the maize was soaked and then cooked in an alkaline solution. This makes the maize release niacin which helps to prevent pellagra and protein deficiency. After the maize had been properly treated, it then could be ground and used in a variety of dishes.
Hunting for Meat
Hunters provided a majority of the meat, though it is believed that dogs and turkeys may have been domesticated as well. They often hunted deer, armadillo, peccary, monkey, turtles, and even iguanas. Those living near along the coast also supplemented their diet with maritime resources, such as fish, lobster, shrimp, and other shellfish.
Ancient Recipies Still Used Today
While many of the dishes that the ancients once used have disappeared, the descendants of the Maya still cook with the same ingredients. Maize is still commonly used in their cooking, as well as beans, squash, many of the same meats, and lots of other various plants and animals that were once used by the ancients. They even farm with some of the same methods passed down through the generations.
Some popular recipes that are used today use the same ingredients that were used by the Maya over a thousand years ago. Honey-Vanilla Fruit Compote, for example, uses native fruits. Hot chocolate, which tasted very different from our modern drink, was once reserved only for the nobles but are now accessible to everyone. Tamales were also a favorite in Mayan times, though the recipe seems to have changed somewhat over time.
Whether the recipe is ancient or modern, the descendants of the Maya continue to make delicious meals. Because they use the same ingredients, it offers a little look into the diets and daily eating of this proud and noble people that continue to fascinate us. Eating a meal prepared by these people today makes you travel back in time, to when the stone cities were flourishing; it is a true taste of the past!