Activities in Cancun. Mexican cuisine in Xcaret: vanilla

One of my favorite activities in Cancun is to take a tour by the Living Museum of Orchids at Xcaret. Here I was walking one day when I saw a beautiful white-yellowed orchid. –That’s the vanilla flower, said to me the guide of this eco park. I saw at her incredulously, so she started to tell me one of the most delicious stories of the Mexican cuisine.

“The Mayan and the Aztecs used the vanilla essence to enrich a sacred beverage called xocolatl, or chocolate. But in fact, the Totonacas, who lived in the tropical region of Veracruz, discovered how this plant grows and gives its peculiar bouquet.

The Totonacas used to tell a story about a princess who was kidnapped by a prince. But the goddess of the harvests was not agreed with their love so she sent them to be beheaded. Both the princess and the prince reincarnated. He became a huge bush and she a beautiful orchid that grows embracing the bush. This orchid is the vanilla flower.

I came close to to the orchid. “But this flower doesn’t smells like vanilla!” I said to the guide of Xcaret.

“Ah, that’s because the pods, which are the fruit of this flower, need a month-long process to get the delicate scent of the vanilla. The pods are laid out in the sun during the mornings then covered with woolen cloth to raise the temperature. At night they’re returned to their boxes. There’s where vanilla fragrance is developed. When the pods get a brown color, they are ready to be the scent of deserts and perfumes. Vanilla is one of the most appreciated spices of the Mexican cuisine. Veracruz is still one of the world’s largest producers of vanilla. And this beautiful orchid is our favorite at Xcaret!”

“Wow! And this is how I can make a delicious vanilla smoothie in the morning!”, I said to the guide. And I thought all those delicious deserts and Mexican recipes without vanilla… The world couldn’t be the same.

“In fact, there are a lot of people that use vanilla artificial flavoring because it is cheaper. But pure vanilla extract has a lot of benefits: it stimulates the nervous system, it is used to combat hysteria, depression and melancholy. Vanilla is also an excellent diuretic and is used to treat stomach ailments”.

Uf! There are a lot of things made with vanilla: candies, beverages, tobacco…! I remembered the delicious rice pudding I enjoyed at La Cocina Restaurant, in Xcaret. I’m sure it was made with pure vanilla extract!

When I passed through the Xcaret’s Main Plaza, I bought a bottle of pure vanilla extract. A few drops in my smoothie make my mornings more delicious and aromatic. And that’s how I always remember one of the activities in Cancun I like the most: The Living Museum of Orchids at Xcaret.

Comments and suggestions:

Do you have a story or anecdote to tell about the Mexican cuisine?

Which of the activities in Cancun makes you thinks  about the essence of Mexico?