My first meal in Guatemala was a tostada and a cup of atol. There were tostadas with either a black bean spread or guacamole and queso fresco (fresh cheese, with a tasty mild flavor and the texture of feta) sprinkled on top. I was elated. Avocado always makes me happy, and the atol drink was essentially hot rice pudding with plenty of cinnamon.
Later I realized that this meal contained the three of the four ingredients that would be both the stars and supporting players in the vast majority of the meals that followed: Corn, Beans, Eggs, and Rice.
To oversimplify, meals in Guatemala always involve corn, accompanied by one or two of the other three options. Guatemalans love their salt and sugar and put generous helpings of each in soups and drinks, respectively. The food is not spicy, for the most part. For example, salsas in my house are mostly tomato, bell pepper, and (sometimes) onion. Oil and margarine are popular cooking ingredients, and boiling or frying (or boiling and then frying) are far more common than steaming or baking. In my house fruits aren’t very common, but we have veggies one meal more days than not. Meat makes an appearance a few times a week, and cheese or milk shows up once or twice a week. Unfortunately, avocado hasn’t been all that common, but they are coming into season soon so hopefully they’ll be a frequent guest star when the prices come down.
This is only my view from my host family, of course. Some other trainees have commented that they have pan dulce (sweet bread… although not all that sweet) with meals every day, although that hasn’t been the case for me. In my house the sweet bread is available a couple of nights a week with our hot drinks after dinner.
Stay tuned for a closer look at the leading characters, guest stars, and extras in the cast of Guatemalan Cuisine.