Talk:Maya cuisine

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Old text[edit]

Like Cjll mentioned over on the Agriculture in Mesoamerica talk page, it might be easier to just start this article over. So i've done that - putting up a stub and placing the old text here for future reference

-- Oaxaca dan 14:43, 21 March 2007 (UTC)

Mayan Interaction with Animals[edit]

In contrast to the highly domesticated animal populations that could be found in ancient Europe, the Mayans in Central America had only a few domesticated creatures, and of these none were used as draught animals. The lack of beasts of burden was partly due to the terrain of the region, and partly due to the exotic, and more difficult to train species. However, due to the proximity of many of these animals, and the unavoidable interaction between the species, the Mayans adapted their way of life to incorporate many of the creatures.

The only known domesticated animals in the time of the Classic Maya were the dog, turkey and deer. It has also been noted that in the Post-Classic era, Maya domesticated doves and Muscovy duck. Dogs were thought to have accompanied the pre-historic peoples who crossed the Bering Land Bridge thousands of years before Mayan civilization sprung up. Dogs were often kept as pets or put to work as hunting dogs. In large packs dogs could round up deer and peccary (wild pig), while the hunters flung spears at the animals. Turkey and deer were harder to domesticate. Some accounts describe how the Maya would scatter maize around the outskirts of villages to keep these animals close enough for consumption.

The Mayan menu varied depending on the region of the empire a tribe occupied. Coastal groups learned how to harvest “spiny lobsters, shrimp, conch, and other shellfish from the Caribbean,” (Foster, pp. 312) while tribes inhabiting other marsh- and wetlands would net and kill crocodiles and manatees. Farther inland Maya would use blowguns and spears to kill small fowl, like quail and partridge, and also the Spider Monkeys that inhabited many of the region’s trees. Also, the Maya were big fans of trapping. They would set spiked pit traps along well-worn animal trails in hopes of catching a deer or peccary. Shells and bones have also been found that indicate the Mayan people would barbecue turtles and iguanas, and it is also known that these animal’s eggs were considered a delicacy.

Contrary to some misconceptions, the Mayans followed a vegetarian diet for the majority of their meals. Animals were not killed at an alarming rate, and the majority of creatures living alongside Maya were left untouched. However, the people of Mesoamerica did appreciate the aesthetic beauty of many animals, and even kept some as pets. Parrots and coati, which look like more friendly raccoons, were sometimes caught and kept around houses with the promise of free food as a reward. Other animals were caught and killed to use their feathers and furs for upper-class wardrobes. Jaguars, quetzals and Scarlet Macaws were all used in religious costumes, as well as for rulers’ clothes.

Millions of Mayans lived among the wild creatures of Central America, not always in peace and harmony, but not usually with hostility. Mayans displayed the importance of animals in their lives when they would pray to animal deities or dress in furs of jaguars. Aside from providing a healthy diet and warm clothes, many animals kept Mayans company in their daily lives, adding a sentimental element to the interaction between the diverse species of animals, humans included, in Mesoamerica.

Dietary practices[edit]

It has become common knowledge that maize, the corn-like produce commonly found in Latin America, was the staple crop of Maya society. However, in order to obtain the necessary nutrition for survival, Mayans had to incorporate other fruits, vegetables and meats into their diet. With three meals a day, the first two commonly liquid and the last a solid, the ancient Mesoamericans managed a healthy diet.

For breakfast and lunch Mayans would regularly eat a mush of maize and water, that they sometimes flavored with chocolate, honey, chili peppers or herbs. This gruel, known as atole, was easily transportable for individuals working in the fields and away from home, and also is said to have combated dehydration. The third meal of the day was usually more substantial, either a stew, or more regularly a tamale. Tamales consisted of maize dough mixed with ground chili sauce and black beans, wrapped inside of either a maize husk or an avocado leaf. In special instances strips of venison or poultry, and also iguana and turtle eggs, were added to these tamales.

It is believed that many Maya kept small gardens by their houses where they cultivated squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, avocado, tomato, papaya, guava, and possibly cacao trees. When they cooked they usually used a three-stone hearth or sometimes simply an open fire. Any alterations to the diet were considered significant, as Munro S. Edmonson noted, “...the inclusion of meat (game or turkey), the preparation of the chocolate-based chile gravy, baked squash or special tamales made it a festival; addition of chocolate or tobacco made it an occasion; and addition of beer, [or] wine... converted it into a ceremony,” (Edmonson, pp. 192).

As aforementioned, the inclusion of meat was an occasion, but when the Maya did eat meat they had a substantial selection. Venison, shellfish and fish (mostly salted and considered a delicacy inland), and poultry (usually turkey, small fowl, and later duck) were all considered treats. In addition, Mayans would trap, cock and cook some dog, armadillo, iguana, turtle and crocodile. Meat was often skewered and possibly rubbed with herbs before being cooked over an open flame. It has also been noted that maize kernels were scattered near villages in order to keep turkey and deer close, and in some cases they would pen these animals in and fatten them before eating them.

In addition to cacao beans, the Maya used herbs and spices like oregano and allspice, and also vanilla and honey to add flavor to food. Honey is the only known sweetener in the Maya diet. Sometimes they would add this natural sweetener to their fermented drinks. Those alcoholic beverages numbered in the dozens, but two commonly consumed drinks were the “Balché, made from the fermented bark of the tree of the same name and mixed with water and honey, and Chicha made of fermented maize and tasting much like beer,” (Foster, pp.313).

Images[edit]

Dan, thanks for your note. I looked thru Flickr, the Wikipedias, and did a Google image search, but I am not yet able to find anything contemporaneous (say Classic era artifacts of Maya eating or preparing food) or anything directly related to Maya foods to go with the article. I'll continue to keep my eyes open.

In the meantime, you may want to see about adding a photo of maize or chilis or something of the like, particularly if the article gets much larger.

As I mentioned, I'll keep my eyes open, Madman 11:53, 22 March 2007 (UTC)

Cool - thanks for your help Madman - I have a number of photos of metates from Chunchucmil that i can upload and that would be relevant.
Here's a couple of other ideas i was thinking about for anyone else who sees this and knows of something out there:
  • any iconographic representation of food - i'm largely thinking of corn, and know i've seen an image of a monument with a god or a king and some corn somehwere around here, but for the life of me i can't remember where.
  • images of complete serving, cooking, or consuming wares - i'm thinking drinking vessels, serving plates, etc. I've never encountered a complete vessel in my digging, so I don't have any good images to add.
  • It would be super-sweet if we could find an image of a pre-Columbian comal.
Righto -- Oaxaca dan 14:11, 22 March 2007 (UTC)
One thing you can look for is preparation or drinking of cacao. I've seen sketches based on reliefs that show a person preparing cacao by pouring it from one vessel to another (in order to produce a head of foam).
Peter Isotalo 12:21, 11 May 2007 (UTC)

Mayan history[edit]

Maya civilization Maya civilization, is better to study about mayas not mesoamerica.If you want to enter wikipedia and make your own thing, study of mayas, it is the best topic :) —Preceding unsigned comment added by 190.184.24.6 (talk) 01:59, 1 October 2010 (UTC)