How do we know what and how ancient people ate? Fortunately Mesoamerica provides several lines of evidence. The documents written by the early Spanish conquistadors offer invaluable insight into the customs of early Mesoamerican civilizations. All cultures utilize a staple food around which the rest of their cuisine is based; in Europe and the Middle East it is wheat, and in the Far East, rice. In Mesoamerica, the staple undoubtedly was corn, or maize.
The original, traditional food of the three high cultures of native America – the Maya, Aztecs and Incas – are quite different from what we know as ‘Mexican food’ or ‘Peruvian cuisine’ today. Food of the Mayas, Aztecs and Incas were heavily influenced by the surrounding environment where they were located; various climates and soils have conditioned how people cultivated and ate. They mainly included a variety of grains and meat that were originated in the areas people lived in, having maize (corn) as their most important staple food and using it for various purposes other than just for food.
It has been said that Maya agriculture was the foundation of civilization. Despite living on the lands which agriculture did not actually fit well, with numerous skills and techniques, Mayans cultivated various staple plants and focused their diet on four primary crops: Maize, squash, common beans, and chili pepper. Beans were also considered as important; several kinds of beans were grown and used in various kinds of food of Maya. Other than important plants, various kinds of fruits and vegetables were cultivated, including tomato, avocado, guava, papaya, pumpkin, pineapple, and sweet potato. Various herbs were also grown, including vanilla, oregano, allspice, hoja santa, and garlic vine.
People of Aztecs ate two, or sometimes three, meals per day, though it is sometimes controversial whether they counted drinking atolli as one meal, since drinking thick atolli could intake much calories that could be earned by eating regular meals. In addition to staple vegetables, numerous kinds of spices and herbs were used in their meals. Among many kinds of spices, chili peppers were the most important ones, coming in a wide variety of species, both domesticated and wild. The diet of Aztecs was mostly vegetarian. Although it has been known that Aztecs consumed a considerable amount of acocils, a kind of small shrimp, other animals they consumed, including various kinds of fowls, gophers, and green iguanas, were only a minor contribution to their diet.
It has been said that the food of the Incas, or Andean cuisine in other words, has originated in pre-Columbian times, around 10,000 BC, by the first horticulturists; they mainly included plants like potato and yucca, and they used tubers to grow these plants. Along with various kinds of plants, Incas consumed various sources of meat. Mainly, Incan people usually domesticated llamas, alpacas, and vicunas, all of them being large-four legged animals that resemble camels. One interesting thing about the Incas is that they used edible clay as food. Inca had several types of edible clay like chako and pasa, which were used as a sauce for vegetable dishes and religious uses. Edible clays, in fact, were quite important to Incan food life, since they were part of the essential ingredients of Inca cuisine.
-For all children, it is time to know and acknowledge the truths of history. Only then will they come to have the understanding and respect for each other that now, more than ever, will be necessary for life to continue. – unknown