The most important staple of Aztec cuisine was maize (corn), a crop that was so important to Aztec society that it played a central part in their mythology. Just like wheat in Europe or rice in most of East Asia, it was the food without which a meal was not a meal. It came in an inestimable number of varieties varying in color, texture, size and prestige and was eaten as tortillas, tamales or atolli, maize gruel. The other constants of Aztec food were salt and chili peppers and the basic definition of Aztec fasting was to abstain from these two flavorers. The other major foods were beans and New World varieties of the grains amaranth (or pigweed), and chia. The combination of maize and these basic foods would have provided the average Aztec with a very well-rounded diet without any significant deficiencies in vitamins or minerals. The processing of maize called nixtamalization, the cooking of maize grains in alkaline solutions, also drastically increased the nutritional value of the common staple.
Water, maize gruels and pulque, the fermented juice of the century plant, were the most common drinks, and there were many different fermented alcoholic beverages made from honey, cacti and various fruits. The elite took pride in not drinking pulque, a drink of commoners, and preferred drinks made from cacao. It was one of the most prestigious luxuries available; it was the drink of rulers, warriors and nobles and was flavored with chili peppers, honey and a seemingly endless list of spices and herbs.
The Aztec diet included an impressive variety of animals; turkeys and various fowl, pocket gophers, Green iguanas, axolotls (a type of water salamander), shrimp, fish and a great variety of insects, larvae and insect eggs. They ate various mushrooms and fungi, including the parasitic corn smut, which grows on ears of corn. Squash was very popular and came in many different varieties. Squash seed, fresh, dried or roasted, were especially popular. Tomatoes, though different from the varieties common today, was often mixed with chili in sauces or as filling for tamales.
William Hickling Prescott (May 4, 1796 – January 29, 1859) was an American historian and Hispanist, who is widely recognized by historiographers to have been the first American scientific historian. Despite suffering from serious visual impairment, which at times prevented him from reading or writing for himself, Prescott became one of the most eminent historians of 19th century America. He is also noted for his eidetic memory.
A direct descendant of the revolutionary American officer William Prescott, William H. Prescott spent his childhood and adolescence in Boston, Massachusetts. Prescott attended Harvard University, and considered a legal career, but his poor health prevented him from working professionally and he therefore dedicated himself to a life of writing. After an extensive period of study, during which he sporadically contributed to academic journals, Prescott specialized in late Renaissance Spain and the early Spanish Empire. His works on the subject, The History of the Reign of Ferdinand and Isabella the Catholic (1837), The History of the Conquest of Mexico (1843), A History of the Conquest of Peru (1847) and the unfinished History of the Reign of Phillip II (1856–1858) have become classic works in the field, and have had a great impact on the study of both Spain and Mesoamerica. During his lifetime, he was upheld as one of the greatest living American intellectuals, and knew personally many of the leading political figures of the day, in both the United States and Britain. Prescott has become one of the most widely translated American historians, and was an important figure in the development of history as a rigorous academic discipline.