November 1, 2010
Delfino Guevara-Indian Music from Mexico
The cuisine of the Yucatan Peninsula is different from that of the rest of Mexico. They share tortillas and boiled beans, and the general plan of tamales and the like, and the Spanish heritage is more or less the same, but all these took different local forms quite early. Yucatecans refer to the rest of the country simply as "Mexico," as if it were a foreign nation.
Until Porfirio Diaz forced the railroad lines through to Merida, Yucatan's principal trade ties were not with "Mexico" but with Cuba. Contact was through Campeche and (later) Progreso, by sea. Mexico had to be reached by sea also--sailing to Veracruz. It is not surprising that Yucatan is a museum of Cuban influences, especially in the cuisine. Afro-Cuban influences are shared. So are achiote, and a preference for black beans. Noteworthy is the use of bitter orange juice where other parts of continental Latin America would use lime juice and where Peninsular Spain would usually use vinegar. Bitter orange is a different species from sweet orange (Citrus aurantium instead of C. sinensis), and has to be grown specially. It came with the Spanish to Cuba, very early, and became important there. Use spread to Haiti, where it is used in vodun as well as ordinary cooking . Its use, especially as a thinner for achiote, is a distinctly Cuban trait.
From ancient times, the Maya made full use of tomatoes and chiles; surely k'utbi p'ak and k'utbi ik are not new. Given the conservatism of rural ways in Yucatan, we can safely assume that the simpler recipes below, such as ts'anchak and ts'ik, date back to ancient Maya days. For one thing, they have Maya names. Recipes with Spanish names are likely to be newer. Most recipes have undergone "mestizoization" (yes, that is a real word) in Yucatan. In the peninsula, the Maya became a so-called "caste," rather than an isolated minority. Poor rural workers, and even poor urban workers, spoke Maya. Rich people spoke Spanish. Many Maya had appreciable Spanish ancestry; conversely, many "mestizos" have no discernible Spanish ancestry. The Maya assimilated many foreigners; I know Maya who have backgrounds ranging from African and Korean to Chinese, Lebanese, and Scandinavian.
A characteristic of Yucatan is the profusion of spice pastes, mostly based on chiles and achiote, known asrecados. This is one of those Caribbean features; similar pastes occur in Cuba and other islands. This is a local pronunciation of the Spanish word recaudo, "collection." The Maya word for these and any spice mix is just xak', "mix." Recados can be bought readymade in Yucatan, but elsewhere they must be made at home...
tenths of recipes and a good reading
also a basic presentation is here
Delfino & the flutes