If you are a food enthusiast like me, then a virtual feast on Aztec food won’t be a bad idea. Come to know of an ancient civilization where food, drinks and dining were a part of the culture. Aztecs were the Native American people who dominated northern Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest.
Maize is the main source of food for Aztecs, it has gain credibility for being a versatile crop, is used for making flour, oil, starch and corn syrup. Tortillas (a round, flat, toasted bread), atole (a sort of porridge seasoned with pimento) and tamales (steamed maize stuffed with savory vegetables or meat) are some of the preparations with maize.
The Aztecs consumed insects such as crickets (chapulines), maguey worms, ants, larvae, etc. Insects have higher protein content than meat, and even now they are considered a delicacy in some parts of Mexico. They used to harvest acocils, (a small shrimp), as well as Spirulina algae, which used to end up as a sort of cake rich in flavonoids.
Pulque used to be a fermented beverage with an alcoholic content equivalent to beer. Well, Aztecs weren’t allowed to drink before the age of 60. First offenses led to light punishments and repeated offenses, hold your breath! could lead to death.
Farmers grew every sort of fruit such as mamey, white and black zapotes, chirimoyas, guavas and custard apple as well as tomatoes, amaranth, sage, avocados, onions, sweet potatoes, camotli, and several varieties of beans.
Aztecs consumed animal food but that used to form a very small part of their diet. Dogs (a hairless breed which is now extinct), turkey, ducks, rabbits were the only domesticated animals in ancient Mesoamerica. And eating meat was reserved for special occasions.
Aztecs are accredited for the discovery of chocolate. Oh! That’s why I love them so much. The food culture of the world would have been incomplete without chocolates. It was made from Cacao bean. Cacao in those times served dual purpose, as a currency and another for making a drink called xocoatl. A drink of cacao mixed with ground maize was believed to provide stamina and was used in sacred rituals
I am glad that I wasn’t born during the time when chocolate eating was reserved for the warriors and noble people. But the Aztec food is certainly unique and is very different from what we eat today!
Joseph Paige © 2006