Hundreds of years of traditions
prehispanic items in every Mexican kitchen
Have you ever been invited to eat at a Mexican home? Then you may have noticed that tortillas are an essential part of the meal. To warm them we use a comal or hotplate. It is very common in almost every house, but we don’t realize that the comal, as many other prehispanic items come from cultures from all Mexico.
Now we know that Mexican cuisine is a blend of cultures. Mixing local flavors with some ingredients that conquerors brought from Europe. Without any doubt, we can tell you that an essential thing about the taste of such delicious food is the prehispanic items and kitchenware that we still use every day to prepare it.
Everything starts with the fire where we cook. Braziers or rustic stove were used as a heat source in a lot of cultures around the world. In Mexico, we know them as anafres. Baked clay and volcanic stones were used to make anafres. Nowadays we still used to heat pots with traditional stews or to put hotplate to prepare Mexican antojitos. You can find them at supermarkets or street markets made from aluminum or other metal to make them easy to carry.
This is one of the most important tools that prehispanic cultures use to prepare food. We are talking about the metate. It is basically a stone for the grinding of corn, cereals, and many other species. With the metate we prepare corn dough, the base of tons of Mexican antojitos and dishes. Specially tortillas for tacos.
The next item isn’t used precisely for cooking. But it was very useful for the transportation of the ingredients like fruits or vegetables. The huacal a rudimentary kind of wooden cage or box. It is very popular in the street markets where fresh ingredients are sold to the people. Back then huacales were made of sticks and bird feathers.
As I mentioned before there is no single Mexican home without a comalor hotplate to heat tortillas for a meal. In prehispanic times they were made of baked clay. All kind of food was cooked in here. Ancients used to put the comal on top of three stones or an anafre so they could put the fire under it. Nowadays as the anafres, you can find them made of any metal. You are very lucky if you ever visit a place where tortillas are handmade and cooked in a comal. Simply delicious!
The word molcajete means “pot for sauce” or “earthenware pot”. This item is similar to the metate, also made of volcanic stone. You can also grind species and ingredients but in smaller quantities. To crush we use a stone called temolote and the mortar is the base. Crushing all the ingredients in this ancient item is the secret of a tasty and traditional Mexican sauce
There is a process that everyone with these prehispanic items have to do just before the first use. To clean it, you must put some rice and salt, then grind them to dust. This will help to polish de rock surface to remove stones remnants that can get mixed with food.
Cocking in a traditional clay pot will add a distinctive flavor to every dish. The Mesoamerican cultures used clay to elaborate a lot of items like pots, hotplates, jars, plates, and pans. Have you ever tried a sweetened pot coffee? Prepared in a clay pot, everything tastes better.
These little bowls are jícarasand we use them to drink chocolate beverage in is traditional way. They are made with the crust of the fruit of the pumpkin also called güira. Jícaras are popular in the culinary art of Yucatecan cuisine.
Jícara in Mayan lengague is “lek” or “luch”.
Now that I mentioned the delicious chocolate beverage. To dissolve in water or milk the chocolate chunks we use a molinilloalso known as chicoli. It consists of a hand-held wooden beater carved in a very artistic way. The froth in a traditional chocolate beverage it is very important, and scrubbing the molinillo while preparing it helps to create it.
You can discover a lot of history in the Mexican cuisine. From a hot and spicy salsa made in a molcajete to handmade tortillas in a comal.
Discover more about prehispanic food: What did Mayans use to eat?