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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 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.

🌽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!

Didn't know corn needed processing before it became a suitable staple (unprocessed corn is fine as an occasional thing: as a staple it will kill you.)

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.

Buuuut that wasn't a problem for the Aztecs. They had mastered this art and were lean, strong, and fit on a diet of corn, beans, squash, and crickets. Generations of fierce warriors, artists, and farmers were bread on it, leading to a stable and prosperous city.

When the Spanish returned to Spain with corn, it spread across the continent where it took hold in many rural towns. Unfortunately, the process of nixtamalization did not also immigrate with them- presumably because of a lack of understanding of nutrition, and the flawed thought that mechanical separation was good enough.

It was not.

The result were sweeping outbreaks of pellegra and kwashiorkor, diseases linked to famine and serious nutrient deficiencies.

Maize 🌽 that has undergone nixtamalization is easier to grind, better tasting, lower (up to 90% reduction) in carcinogenic compounds from mycotoxin infestations.

It also unbinds niacin that is otherwise indigestible to humans and makes it available for us to absorb, warding off serious outbreaks of illnesses such as pellegra which occur in countries were corn in a staple food, but has not undergone treatment, and lastly reduces the amount of protein zein, creating a balance amino chain.

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.

❗ 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.

But wait, wasn't Tenochtitlan a city on a lake? Wasn't it, itself, a city raised from the lake? Its a mystery how it supported itself, how did it actually feed the people?

Glad you asked. Introducing: chināmitl!

Also known as chinampa, these were artificially constructed swaths of farmable land build up by stones, twigs, dirt, and fertilizer. These constructs and their management were so doggone efficient that they could produce up to 4 crops per year!

There are no records of garbage dumps within the Aztec Empire. This city ran cleanly and recycled every scrap they possibly could:

*human and animal wastes became fertilizer
*urine was collected by families in their homes and sold to the city
*anything burnable was collected and used to light the city at night
*wastefulness, littering, and dumping in public spaces was an offense punishable by death, especially towards the nobility classes

The city was even known to employ street sweepers and janitorial staff in order to keep the city as clean as possible and keep the gears of their system running smoothly. Without cooperation at all levels, this would not have possible and the Mexica society would not have been as fierce and long lasting as it was.

The arrival of the Spanish is truly the end of the world here. Their utter clusterfuck of destruction is one that Mexico City is still dealing with to this very day.

Its a maddening thing to look at Spanish written codices and see my ancestors villified as barbarians. Its true that famine and power corruption had taken hold of the empire eventually as all power does eventually corrupt, but this was not who the Mexica were. Our people were bright, humble, strong. They were invested in education and the arts and preserving the world around them. They were not the arbiters of destruction that they have been made out to be. That was Hernan Cortes and his war.

And we're back.

Okay! So now we know what foods were wild, native and domesticated, we know how they were processed, we know how they were grown, and we know how the end product got recycled.. So.. WHAT DID THEY ACTUALLY EAT?!

Well, tacos 🌮 Like that one there is a trope because its true. Corn tortillas (made from maize processed via nixtamalization) accompanied basically every meal as it still does today in a lot of Mexican households. You stuff it with beans, corn, rice, meat and munch away.

Tamales, of course, are found all over south america. Beliz, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil, Cuba, Venezuela, and so many other countries have their own versions of tamales made with their own traditional regional foods, sometimes wrapped in corn husks, banana or plantain leaves, or sometimes is just the filling with no breading around it!

There is also a special festival once observed in the Mexica Empire that has to do with tamales.

It was prepared in many different ways, savory with chilies and spices to make mole (mow-le) sauce that was cooked and poured over veggies and meat, or with hot water, vanilla, and spices. as a drink for the nobility and warriors or the common folk at festivals. Chocolate as we know it today did not come to be for quite a long while still.

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