Mayan Food is part of the Mayan culture which is still alive today, and many people in Yucatan Mexico are proud to be part of this culture.
Due to the fact that for many years we were totally disconnected from the rest of Mexico, traditional Yucatecan food is absolutely unique.
With a more European and Caribbean flavor, it is not very common in other parts of Mexico. It is considered an un-mexican food by many people.
The opposite is also true; many dishes from the traditional Mexican cuisine (as we know it in the United States) were not as popular in Yucatan twenty five years ago, since then many people from the northern Mexican states have relocated to Yucatan.
Chef Brent Marsh, a native of New Zealand, who lives in the colonial city of Merida Yucatan , captured the essence of the differences that exist between Yucatecan cuisine and traditional Mexican cuisine. He said “It’s kind of like two separate cultures sharing a flag”
Yucatan offers a great number of Yucatecan Mayan Food Restaurants where you can taste these delicious traditional Mayan dishes.
The main ingredients of Ancient Mayan dishes were and still are corn / maize, black beans and squash.
This basic diet has remained the same for centuries. It also includes fruits and vegetables known to most of the world such as avocado, pumpkin, papaya and mango to name a few.
Included in their diet were exotic fruits only grown in tropical climates such as: guanabana, pitahaya, mamey, sour orange, sapote, saramuyo and nance among many others.
The Mayans did not eat meat often, however, when they did, they ate deer, wild pheasant, monkey, iguana, rattle snake, wild boar and wild turkey among other animals.
They also raised turkeys and a hairless kind of dog exclusively for food. They were unfamiliar with cattle as we know it.
Yucatan is known as the land of the pheasant and the deer, due to the fact that these species were abundant in the Yucatan Peninsula and these animals were some of the main ingredients in Mayan Food.
Many Mayan recipes called for this kind of meat, although currently they have been substituted with pork and turkey.
The pheasant which is a relative of the peacock as we know it, is currently extinct due to unlimited hunting privileges, and can only be seen at the zoo. Deer hunting is not allowed anymore.
Thirty years ago, deer meat (venison) was still a part of Yucatecan Mayan cuisine.
When I was
growing up in Merida Yucatan, my best buddies lived next door, and it so
happened that their parents owned a cattle ranch in a little town called
Buczotz. A three hour drive from where we lived.
I was usually invited along with other friends from the block to go with them during our spring and summer vacations.
We took our slingshots with us, because we liked to go hunting in the woods; iguanas, rabbits and everything that crossed our paths.
Well on this particular day I didn’t feel inclined to go hunting with my friends so I stayed at the ranch swinging in my hammock and educating myself reading Superman comic books.
When they came back they brought with them an enormous, quite ugly, dead iguana, which they threw on my lap.
I was disgusted and horrified at having that thing on top of me, thankfully they took it off. I thought that was the end of it until the cook called us for dinner............
All the people that worked at the ranch were from Mayan descent,
and were really experts at cooking Mayan Meals.
Anyway, we all went to the dining room and there in the middle of the table were two large serving platters with delicious looking food, which I mistook for chicken, anyway, that's what they told me it was when I asked.
I was so hungry, I served myself twice and it was actually really good, the only strange thing was that the bones were very small, but, I didn’t give it much thought while I was eating.
It wasn’t until after we finished eating, that we were told that what we really had for dinner was the iguana that had been caught earlier that day, needless to say, a couple of my friends and I went outside with the picture of the dead iguana in our minds, and let's just say we didn't keep it in our stomachs.
Today I wish I hadn't done that. It really was an educating experience, my first Ancient Mayan Food; well..... I was only fifteen.