🌽hello again, my little 🐠 mimichtin its time again for another thread on the Aztec Empire.

according to a little poll floating about, y'all were most keen on leaning about Food and Waste Management of the empire, which I can talk about for days. #StarTalk

A couple things to remember:

*This largely applies to the capital city of Tenochtitlan
*Because of Spanish/Catholic genocide, much information is missing/inaccurate/false
*I'm doing my best
*You can tip me for my work!
linktr.ee/newfireluna

So lets get started with the most basic question: What the hell did the Mexica eat? Great question.

By and large, the Mexica were a vegetarian society. That's not to say they did not eat meat, but rather that meat was reserved for festive occasions for most of the population. The higher castes that could afford it, certainly ate it more often, but that was generally not the thing. As we talked about earlier, this was a society focused on being humble and not wasteful.

So what did they eat?

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The number one most important crop of the Mexica, so important that there is a goddess with a bloody, gorey festival dedicated to her in order to ensure a rich harvest is, of course

🌽

Corn!

Corn was and even today remains an extremely important staple food to the Mexica, Mexicans, and other indigenous tribes of the region. It grows well in the hot climate, and when processed properly* and combined with the number 2 staple crop, creates a completely balance nutrient.

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The number 2 staple crop is of course Beans. Pinto and black beans which remain vital to Mexican cooking today, when combined with corn, created a meal balanced enough that it rivaled even balanced meat-eating diets.

WIth out third staple crop 🎃 squash, we round out what has been called in the past the Three Sisters or food trinity. This (in varying subspecies) has formed the basis for many, many indigenous diets across the Americas.

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Of course there are loads more foods native to the Americas that the Mexica grew in abundance: Amaranth (a grain), chia, tomatoes, chilies, avocados, cactus fruit, cactus, honey, agave, mushrooms. Further south we get pineapples, sweet potatoes, papaya, vanilla, and chooocolate.

But.. wait. That's all produce. I said they ate meat sometimes, didn't I? So what meats were present in the Americas before the Europeans introduced cattle, chickens, pigs, goats, and sheep? 🦗 🦃

Lets get this part out of the way: the Mexica ate dogs. A hairless breed called itzcuintli were one of the two domesticated livestock kept for eating. The other was turkeys.

Now, I know what the Western mindset is about this, but don't jump to villifying them. The Mexica revered their dogs, kept them as very loved and fat pets. They were buried with their owners upon death, to lead their owner to Mictlan, the city of the dead. But, yknow, they were also practical people. It happened.

There's actually a superstition about this.. That if a person were to trick their dog (like we pretend to throw balls but really don't, or hide treats) then the dog would in turn trick them on the journey to Mictlan, and not help them cross the river, leaving their owner to get across themselves or wander in purgatory forever.

So.. yknow.. Be nice to your puppies.

As a short aside, as always feel free to ask questions. I may not get to them right away, but I will get to them.

The other domesticated critter they kept were turkeys, both for meat and eggs.

Aside from that! The Mexica were hunters, of course. Deer, tapir, iguana, rabbits, wild boar, opossums... But this is Tenochtitlan, a city surrounded by water, so their primary diet was rich in seafood, insects, and birds!

Turtles, salamanders, frogs, mollusks, shellfish, ants, grasshoppers, ducks, geese, pelicans, gulls, pigeons, quail, and though not an animal- an algae called spirulina. it was formed into high protein loaves that i'm told were pretty cheesy.

The question guinea pigs was raised, and yes those are native to the Americas, it was primarily the Inca and modern day Peruvians which domesticated them for food. It may have been a staple food in some parts of the Empire!

Anyway, lets get back to the subject of 🌽 It cannot be stressed enough how direly important corn was to the empire. It forms the basis of many, many important dishes and has floated the nutritional needs of tribes for many generations.

But wait, you heard that corn heavy diets are unhealthy? How did the Mexica get away with it? How do indigenous tribes get away with it? Well, lets back to where I mention a special processing method vital to this diet.

❗ Nixtamalization ❗ is the process of cooking down corn with lime, either as an addition in chunks or as it was most likely discovered, cooked on top or inside of lime cookware.

Now, technically, this can be accomplished with any alkaline solution (wood ash lye is another option) but its most likely limestone was used, so we'll stick with lime. The corn would be cooked, soaked for several hours, then washed thoroughly, hulled (made easier by this process), and finally processed.

Maize that underwent nixtamalization was ground down into a much, much finer powder (called masa flour) than most Americans might be used to seeing. In the states, we're most familiar with cornmeal, dried ground corn that did not undergo this special method.

Whats the difference? Cornmeal cannot be made independently into a dough while masa flour only needs the addition of water and salt. There is also a key difference in nutrients.

Photo below. Hover for text.

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@star okay I need to start getting and cooking with masa flour more often. *goes off to research recipes* gluten-free cooking ahoy! XD

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