Monday, August 13, 2012

Countdown To Baktun 13: Mayan Black Beans

Mayan mural that shows harvest and food activities

It's been a coon's age, as the old Southern saying goes, since I've had a chance to post anything here!!  This year hasn't gone quite as I's a Presidential election year...which everyone knows, unless you've been off the planet (!), and I have been made a polling manager, which is A LOT OF WORK, and we've had a lot more elections in our county this year than usual, with another one coming next Tuesday; but I am determined not to let this special year pass me by in regards to the Maya calendar!  So just to get started, here's a basic recipe for black beans, which has been a staple of the Mayan diet for hundreds and hundreds of years, along with corn tortillas.  Aside from the imported cultivated garlic and onions, these are made the same way as in ancient times. And, hey, today is Monday, and this is great for Meatless Monday, if you're into that!

Mayan black beans in banana leaf bowl.


1 lb black beans, picked over for rocks and rinsed and drained
Water (6 to 7 cups, black beans need a liquid)
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt (this is to taste)
1/4 large white onion, chopped (optional, but now traditional)
1 clove garlic (optional, but now traditional)
1 sprig epazote (optional)

1.  Many recipes will tell you soak the beans overnight.  It's been my experience that most Native American cooks don't do this.  It doesn't matter if they are southeastern, southwestern or central American.  If you want to do this, go ahead; I don't find it particularly helpful.  If you are doing this, go ahead and measure the water out and just use that the next day for the cooking liquid.

2.  Place the beans in pot and add the water, if you are not soaking.  Place on medium high heat and add the onion and garlic, if using. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer.  

3.  Now about the salt, most cooks will caution on add it after an hour of cooking or the skins of the beans will supposedly get unpleasantly hard, some cooks, however, just through it in with the onion and garlic.  I've actually tried it both ways and can't really tell the difference.  Do what you like.  Cook the beans for about 2 1/2 hours (if soaked they cook faster).  Serve with hot tortillas.  In urban areas, they are also served with rolls and buns.  They are eaten any time of day, but are especially enjoyed for breakfast.

This is a traditional Bean Pot

Of course, making these with just salt is what most everyday Maya did in ancient times.  For ancient royalty however, foraged wild herbs would have been added.  The use of Epazote, also called "wormseed," came down from the north, and it generally still not used in places like Guatemala, but wild onions would have been an important additive.  Both wild onion and garlic, both in the form of what we would think of as "green onions," do grow in the thick jungles of southern Mexico and Central America, and they are VERY strong.  This probably accounts for the love of imported crop onions by the modern Maya--they are simply onion pickle crazy!!


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