Published in Revue Magazine (page 23), March 2014 -by Amalia Moreno-Damgaard. Located in the heart of Mesoamerica, Guatemala is the cradle of the Mayan civilization and as such it was an important agricultural and cultural hub. Many key species of crops emerged, including corn, tomatoes, chilis, squash, beans, potatoes and chocolate.
Guatemala has specific styles of cuisine, each with its characteristic group of cooking ingredients. These include indigenous, traditional/home cooking and Garifuna, along with a vibrant street food scene. Guatemalan indigenous cuisine incorporated the food of the ancient Mayas prepared according to rustic techniques, most often over an open fire. With the arrival of the Spanish and new ingredients, prepared meals transformed into what is known today as traditional/home-style cooking with both Spanish and
Mayan influences. With the influx of the Garifuna (Afro-Caribs), Guatemala’s Caribbean region heralded yet another twist to Guatemalan cuisine.
Street food (fast food) eventually emerged in response to the country’s economic challenges. Guatemalan cuisine groups remained relatively stable until a world-wide food renaissance was triggered by the “foodie revolution.” In the past 10-15 years culinary schools began to flourish, innovative chefs and food channels came to the forefront. In a competitive effort to stand out, professional chefs started to refresh the cuisine, and reinvention began to take place. To appeal to the taste of the elite, native and foreign cooks began fusing local fare with the cuisines of other countries.
This new food dynamic continues to influence Guatemalan cooking. With the renewed interest in all things to eat and drink, a wide array of businesses expanded and flourished. The first local winery and an interest in wine tasting emerged. Distilleries and breweries adapted to changing tastes. Coffee growers are abundant countrywide; artisan and commercial chocolate production continues to grow; and new formal and informal cooking schools have surfaced. Gourmet food and specialty stores that cater to a variety of tastes have emerged, local TV cooking shows and cultural programs have become popular, and the list goes on.
Recent trends indicate that the food craze will continue to mutate cuisine into many forms, and will be stimulated by new internal and external interest in Guatemalan food, luxury cruise ships visiting, and the government’s tourism marketing campaign. Despite this, there continues to be a need to elevate the culinary scene to even higher standards. New opportunities for food companies will emerge in local and international markets as Latin American cuisine positions itself as the new group of hot cuisines in the world.
As Latin America grows in importance in the U.S. and the world, cooking will be at the forefront for culinarians, and Latin editorial and publishing houses will see an increase in food-related literature and published cookbooks, which historically have been few in comparison to other food vibrant regions. These changes could serve to entice even more home cooks to better appreciate, embrace and cultivate
the cuisine of their homeland. The cultural richness brought on by these changes is a wheel that will continue to turn for many generations to come. In Guatemala let us accept change, but let us not forget our roots!
Happy 22nd anniversary Revue!
Here is a recipe (page 54) worthy of celebration—easy, healthy and delicious!