Guatemala: One quick Pinterest search and you’ll find that this country is absolutely STUNNING. Located in Central America, Guatemala is known for beautiful landscape, Mayan culture, and, of course, delightful Guatemalan Food.
I was surprised to learn that Guatemala is actually the birthplace of chocolate! The Mayans discovered the cacao bean, and cherished it for its health benefits. These days, Guatemala produces 10,500 tons of chocolate a year. Thank you Guatemala for your gift to this earth <3
Talking with Michele from A Taste for Travel was such a delight. Michele was born in Canada, but married a Guatemalan. She now splits her time between the countries… Is that not a daydream for all of us? 😉
Michele sat down to teach us a bit about Guatemala, including family life, common pastimes, and Guatemalan Food.
Tell me about your history with Guatemala. What connections do you have to the country?
I met and married a guy from Guatemala and for close to 30 years I’ve been learning about Guatemalan food and cooking various dishes.
You married a Guatemalan and now live in the country part time… what things about the Guatemalan culture were surprising to you?
We divide our time between Canada, Guatemala and the south of Mexico.There were many things about Guatemalan culture that were quite different than from the way I grew up on the Canadian prairies.
In Guatemala, our family goes everywhere together. Whether it’s a trip to the beach, a pilgrimage to Escuipulas, a dinner in Antigua or even a doctors appointment, no one seems to go alone. There are always several family members along for company. I’d never seen a hotel room with 10 beds but yes, if you plan a road trip you’re going to need one.
I’d also never seen a pick-up truck with lawn chairs in the back for family passengers. On our last day trip to Monterrico Beach, we travelled in a school bus packed with family, food and drinks.
In Canada, we really only saw family on holidays and special occasions.
Also shocking to me was life on a ranch. I grew up in the city, so I’m not accustomed to farm life. When my mother in law asked me if I wanted chicken soup and then wrung a chicken’s neck I almost fainted. She gave me a cow for a wedding gift and everyone laughed as I treated it more as a pet than a source of food.
What Guatemalan traditions or holidays have you adopted into your life after marrying your husband? Are there any foods that symbolize a wonderful Guatemalan tradition or memory for you?
My mother in law (and all of the women in the village) make tamales for Christmas Eve. I always make bacalao a la vizcaina, a salt cod dish at Easter.
If I’m not in Guatemala and am trying something new, I send photos of the food I make to my sister in law or husband’s cousin and everyone critiques it.
What are typical pastimes in Guatemala? What do you do for fun?
The men in the family like to cook together outdoors and will hire a “matador” to slaughter a pig and then boil vats of fat to make chicharron.
They also grill carne asada and sit around and tell jokes, dance to mariachi music or go to the beach or one of the balnearios (natural swimming pools) or water parks.
What is family life like in Guatemala?
Everyone is in constant contact by WhatsApp and phone if not in person. On one of my first trips to Guatemala, my brother in law gave me a telephone with all of the family member’s phone numbers programmed into it so I could easily call anyone. I was very touched by how thoughtful that was.
Tell me about Guatemalan Food. What types of meat are common to eat? What vegetables?
The food is very regional. In Zacapa or Livingston they eat completely different food than they do in the Mayan highlands.
Do you ever find that there is any history of the Mayans left over in Guatemalan food? Do you still eat food influenced by the Mayans today?
There are many dishes such as Jocón (Guatemalan Chicken and Tomatillo Stew), pulique (Stewed Chicken) and pepian (Spicy Stew) that are traditional dishes among the Maya.
The recipes differ slightly depending on the cook and the town. Our family eats pepian, but I’ve never seen them eat pulique – it’s eaten more in the highlands.
What’s your very favorite recipe from Guatemala? What is your least favorite traditional Guatemalan Food?
Fave food is chile rellenos and least favourite revolcado (boiled pig head stew).
Are there any ingredients that you love that just aren’t the same unless you’re in Guatemala?
My mother in law has a loroco vine beside her outdoor kitchen and harvests the pale fragrant buds for dobladas and chicken dishes.
It’s impossible to grow in northern climates so it is available only frozen, which has a very soggy texture. Cheese from Zacapa is also not easily found.
Tell me about your food blog! Why you started it, what it features, etc. What is your favorite Guatemalan recipe on your blog that I can link to?
My blog, A Taste for Travel, features recipes and stories from across Guatemala (and other countries). The recipe I make most often is Jocon de Pollo – a chicken stew featuring tomatillos and cilantro. It’s really easy to make and doesn’t require any frying.
If you liked this article about Guatemalan Food, make sure to check out the other articles and recipes posted on my site: