Summary of “Guatemala is the Land of Unknown Ancient Food Traditions”

Due to centuries of isolation in the volcano-strewn highlands-not to mention a brutal civil war from 1960 to 1996, plus gang-driven crime waves that have discouraged tourism until very recently-many members of the 23 distinct Maya groups in rural Guatemala still speak their own pre-Columbian languages and wear the same outfits that their great-great-great-great-grandparents did.
There are plenty of ancient concoctions far tastier than puchon-ik, as I learn in San Juan where Cotuc offers to connect me with a Maya villager employed in one of the textile workshops near the dock.
The Mayas created one of the great ancient civilizations-stretching across southeastern Mexico and northern Central America-with advanced mathematical, architectural, astronomical, and hieroglyphic systems, so it’s no surprise they knew how to eat.
Wealthy Guatemalans in Antigua and the capital of Guatemala City, two hours to the east, often celebrate weddings and birthdays with suban-ik; invariably the elaborate meal is prepared by their cook, who is likely to be a Maya woman.
“Ritual has always been so important to the Mayas,” says Carlos, “And you still see a strong ceremonial aspect in so many ancient dishes.” Kak-ik, for example, is not just a turkey soup but also a key fixture in christening a new home; the blood of the slaughtered turkey is spread around the floor of the house before the bird makes it to the stove.
Throughout Guatemala there’s also a deep reverence for chocolate, which the Mayas consumed in liquid form before the Spanish arrived.
The most essential food of all for the ancient Mayas, of course, was maize-not just a crop but a vital force and, according to legend, the stuff the first humans were made from.
The ancient Mayas didn’t eat beef or pork-both were introduced by the Spanish colonizers-but I overlook that detail as I down spoonfuls of this addictively unctuous dish, which combines the tahini-like creaminess of ground sesame and pumpkin seeds, the sweet tang of stewed tomatoes, and just the right overdose of black pepper.

The orginal article.