In one of my “Year Four” posts I mentioned that I didn’t take many pictures of food this time. Several people have asked what kind of food “they eat there”, so I have been back through photos and come up with a collection. I can’t remember all the names, but I know there has never been anything I didn’t like!!
After my first visit in 2015 I purchased a small paperback book from Amazon called “Favorite Recipes from Guatemala” by Laura Lynn Woodward. It is only 80 pages long, but I have used it extensively. (I checked Amazon today and it is selling for $70.58 – previously it was listed for $400 +, but I know I paid less than $20 🙂 )
The “Featured Photo” at the top of the page is Fiambre, the traditional dish served on November 1 in commemoration of Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead) which is actually eaten on what we know as All Saints Day). The day after we arrived (yes, it was planned that way!) was November 1st and we set off for Santiago Sacatapequez to enjoy the festivities at the Giant Kite Festival, held here and in Sumpango, every November 1st. Since this post is about food, you will have to go back four years to see my pictures of barriletes gigantes (or maybe wait until 2019 – maybe!). The whole town of Santiago was abuzz with excitement – crowds, street vendors, children, adults, dogs and donkeys. All I knew in advance was that kites would be flying, but I was a little unprepared to find that the festival took place in a graveyard. Not only that, but families were enjoying picnics on the graves of their departed loved ones. Marigolds were planted all over the graves, and the scent of the flowers being trampled remains with me today. Fiambre is basically a salad which can be made of meat and vegetables – ingredients are limited only by availability and imagination. Families often leave a dish on the grave when they leave, especially if the deceased enjoyed Fiambre in earthly life. That evening we dined on Fiambre made by the mother of a friend of the family, and truly delicious it was!
Many foods, including tortillas, beans, tamales, and paches are still made in the ancient way using clay clay cooking implements over a woodfire. The speed and accuracy of these ladies making street tortillas in Santiago was amazing!
The Mayan people were, are still are, “The People of Corn”. Ixim Winaq. In Mayan mythology, the last human beings on earth were formed by the Creator Mother out of the oil and dough of ground corn and then they were given their life’s breath through the tobacco smoke of the Creator Father. Being corn people, Mayans eat and drink corn at every meal as long as they live. Drink? I hear you say – atole is a corn gruel, usually flavored with one or more of the following: chile, sugar, mint, cinnamon or chocolate.
Breakfast is my favorite meal (well, so is lunch, and maybe dinner!!!). I love huevos revueltos (scrambled eggs) and black beans, plantains and white cheese ………… (I remember when I was in Panama I was so disappointed not to see any black beans!!!). The bread is amazing, not at all like American bread (well, nothing is like that!) – it is almost sweet, but not sweet, and the texture is wonderful.
Lunch: we often ate out while we were exploring. The quality of restaurants is really first class, but even the “snack-type” places offer extremely good food.
Fruit – oh! wonderful fruit. Bananas, plantains, papayas, jocotes, rambutans, apricots, peaches – you name it, it is there! (Oh, and don’t forget coconuts from the Pacific coastal area!!!)
Vegetables – yes, veggies too! Lots of different kinds of squash, including “Guisquil” (Mirliton in Louisiana, Chayote in Texas), and the usual beans, onions, carrots, etc.
And my most favorite salsa of all – Chirmol. There are lots of recipes for this, but the one I make is:
6 tomatoes, 1 small chopped onion, 1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint, 1/4 cup warm water. I teaspoon lemon juice. Salt to taste. 1/2 chile serrano chopped fine. (You can change herbs as you wish – like adding Cilantro, more hot peppers, etc.)
Toast the tomatoes in a skillet, turning often until dark and the skin separates. When cool enough to handle, peel them then mix with the remaining ingredients and crush with a wooden spoon to make a runny sauce.
And drinks!!! Horchata ( Rice – and sometimes peanut ), Refresco de Tamarindo, Refresco Rosa de Jamaica (Hibiscus), Refresco de Carambola (Starfruit), Refrisco de Piña. And Rum, of course. And the best coffee in the world (according to me and many others!)
They don’t call Guatemala the land of Eternal Spring for nothing 🙂