Food is likely one of the largest cultural facets of Mexico that is found in the U.S. today, but much of what we know as Mexican food is a narrow slice of traditional Mexican cuisine. Today we offer a variety of articles about pre-Hispanic foods that originate in what is referred to as the Aztec Empire.
Water fly eggs, known as ahuautle in Nahuatl, are one of the many types of insects that have historically been consumed in Mexico. Like other edible insects, ahuautle are far less demanding to cultivate than things like cattle but with a much higher protein content which makes them both cost-effective and nutritious. Find the article about this ‘caviar’ here. Harvard has a teaching resource to help your students realize how labor-intensive food production in Mesoamerica was and still can be, which can help explain why less labor-intensive foods like ahuautle were so prized prior to colonization.
Spirulina, recognized most often today as a greenish health food, is called tecuitlatl in Nahuatl. This bacterium was harvested from alkaline environments and commonly eaten in a small cake form until Spanish colonizers destroyed most of the growing environments and largely disrupted popular production. Smithsonian has an article on the reclamation of foods such as spirulina which have become trendy today but are truly part of ancestral diets.
Another popular crop deemed as a “super-food” today is amaranth, a grain once fundamental to many communities in Latin America. Named huaútli in Nahuatl, this crop was also banned by the Spanish colonizers because of its use in Indigenous spirituality, seen as something the Catholic Church needed to rid the land of. There are a number of articles that tell different parts of the amaranth story, from NPR, National Geographic, and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México which includes a recipe for a salad with amaranth.