|538 PART V The Early Modem World|
|Food and the
|Textbook’s Introduction to the Topic (Background only): When Columbus set foot on the island of Hispaniola in October 1492, he began a complex process of interaction between the Old
World and the New known as the “Columbian Exchange.” This process had a profound impact – both positive and negative – on both civilizations.
Among the many aspects of European and Amerindian life that each encountered was food. The Spanish introduced such vegetation as wheat, bananas, oranges and lemons, grapes, and sugar cane to the Westem Hemisphere. The early European visi-
The earliest Europeans in the Western Hemisphere reveled at the foods the Amerindians grew, manufactured, and ate but noted the absence of familiar items. From Columbus to Cortes, they recorded their findings in great detail.
Who are the authors?
The authors below include Columbus, Hernan Cortes (a conquistador), Bernal Diaz del Castillo (likewise) and Roger Barlow. Barlow’s is the most difficult to read because it is written in 16th Century English. The others have been translated into English from 16th Century Spanish.
|FIR S T ENCOUNTER|
|During this time I walked among the trees, which the most beautiful I have ever seen. I saw as much greenery, in such density, as I would have seen in Andalusia in May. And all of the trees are as differ from ours as day is from night, and so are the fruits, herbage, the rocks, and everything. . . .
This morning I took the small boat and went the river until I reached fresh water, which might be about six miles. I beached the boat and went ashore climbing a slight elevation in order to learn something about this country, but I could not see any because of the thick forest, which was very fresh and fragrant. I have no doubt that there are many aromatic herbs here. Everything is so beautiful that my eyes never weary of seeing such a sight, nor could ever tire of the songs of the birds, both large and small. …
There are trees . . . that give a fruit like apricot, which is full of small seeds like the seeds fig, red as scarlet which the inhabitants eat, but to it is none too good. . . . There are also some like
All the land around the village is cultivated, and a river flows through the middle of the valley. It is very large and wide and could irrigate all the I around. All the trees are green and full of fruit, the plants are in flower and very tall. The roads wide and good, and the breezes are like those in Castile in the month of April. The nightingales other small birds sing as they do in Spain in the month, and it is the greatest pleasure in the world Small birds sing sweetly during the night, and one can hear many crickets and frogs. The fish are the same as in Spain. There are many mastic trees and aloes and cotton trees.
Primary Source # 1:
The Log of Christopher Columbus, trans. Robert H. Fuson International
Marine Publishers, Copyright © Reprinted with permission,1992.
|MANIOC: A NEW WORLD STAPLE|
Several weeks after arriving in the Bahamas , Columbus tasted a local bread made from manioc (known to the Spanish as yuca and to the
English as cassava). Manioc had been under cultivation in the Western Hemisphere for thousands of years and to this day remains a staple for millions of people in the tropics. A fast-growing shrub, the manioc plant produces large tubular roots that provide starch energy on a subsistence level. It is generally made into a paste or a porridge eaten with a sauce or made into a flour. Columbus discusses manioc in his journal .
They [the Amerindians] brought the bread of niamas [rnanioc], which are tubers and look like large radishes. These are planted in all their fields and are their staff of life. They make bread from them and boil and roast them, and they taste like chestnuts. . . .
These fields are planted mostly with ajes.
The Indians sow little shoots from which small roots grow that look like carrots. They serve this bread by grating and kneading it, then baking
it in the fire. They plant a small shoot from the iaIlle root again in another place, and once more it produces four or five of these roots. They
are very palatable and taste exactly like chestnuts. The ones grown here are the largest and best I have seen anywhere. I have also seen them in Guinea, but those that grow there are thick as your leg.
The Log of Christopher Columbus, trans. Robert H. Fuson International Publishers, Copyright © Reprinted with permission, 1992.
From Poison to Food
Some forms of manioc, however, are poisonous and must be processed to be safe to consume. Roger Barlow, a 16th-century English writer, described the process in his A Brief Summe of Geographie.
[The Amerindians rub the manioc root] on a stone and so it turneth to curdes, which thei take and put in a long, narowe bagge made of ryndes
of trees, and so press out the liquor and gather it in a vessell, and when the iuce is out ther resteth in the bagge the floure as fyne and white as the snowe, wherof thei make cakys and bake them upon the fier in a panne, and after this be bakyn it is a very good brede, holsome and medecinable, and will endure a yere without corruptyng. And likewise thei take the licour and seethe it over the fyre and after that it is a good drynke and of grete sustenaunce and strength, but and if one shuld drinke of it before it were boiled over the fire, and litle quantite as wold into a nuttys shelle, thei suld die inconrvnent.
From Alfred W. Crosby, Jr.. The Columbian Exchange: Biological and
Cultural Consequences of 1492, Greenwood Press, Copyright © 1971.
Please note: Crosby is the editor of the book, not the author of the text. The author is Roger Barlow, above.
|A FOOD OF THE AMERINDIANS|
As the Spanish conquistadors ravaged Mexican and South American cultures, they were generally forced to live off the land and to become accustomed to eating local foods.
The food they [the inhabitants of islands off the Yucatan] eat is maize and some chili peppers, as on the other islands, and patata yuca, just the same as is eaten in Cuba, and they eat it roast, for they do not make bread of it; and they both hunt and fish and breed many chickens [probably turkeys] such as those found on Tierra Firme,
which are as big as peacocks.
From Hernan Cortes. Letters from Mexico, trans. and ed. A. R. Pagden Yale University Press, Copyright © 1971.
|540 PART V The Early Modem World|
|Bernal Diaz del Castillo
When we got on shore we found three Caciques, one of them the governor appointed by Montezuma, who had many of the Indians of his household with him. They brought many of the fowls of the country and maize bread such as they always eat, and fruits such as pineapples and zapotes, which in other parts are called mameies, and they were seated under the shade of the trees, and had spread mats on the ground, and they invited us to be seated, all by signs, for [ulianillo the man from Cape Catoche, did not
|From Bernal Diaz del Castillo, The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico, 1517 – 1521, ed. Genaro Garcia and trans. A. P. Maudslay Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Copyright © 1956.|
|ON WINE AND OTHER SPIRITS|
|The Spanish enjoyed wine made from grapes, which Europeans had produced since ancient times. As early as his second voyage in 1493, Columbus brought with him seeds and cuttings from numerous plants, including vines, but Europeans soon discovered that the climate was right only in Peru, Chile, and what is now Argentina. By 1614, one vineyard in Chile produced some 200,000 jugs of wine. The conquistadors found that the Amerindians had their own version of wine made from the maguey plant, a member of the aloe family. When drunk fresh from the plant, the sap is known as aguamiel, or “honey water.” When fermented, however, the resulting syrupy liquor becomes
pulque, a beverage still consumed in the region today. When the Europeans distilled pulque, they pro duced a higher–proof alcohol liquor known today as Tequila.
|This city has many squares where trading is done and markets are held continuously. There is also one square twice as big as that of
Salamanca, with arcades all around, where more than sixty thousand people come each day to buy and sell, and where every kind of merchandise produced in these lands is found; provision!
as well as ornaments of gold and silver, lead, brass, copper, tin, stones, shells, bones, and feathers. They also sell lime, hewn and unhewn stone, adobe bricks, tiles, and cut and uncut woods of various kinds. There is a street where they sell game and birds of every species found in this land: chickens, partridges and quails,
wild ducks, ‘fly-catchers, widgeons, turtledoves, pigeons, cane birds, parrots, eagles and eagle owls, falcons, sparrow hawks and kestrels, and they sell the skins of some of these birds of prey
with their feathers, heads and claws. They sell rabbits and hares, and stags and small gelded dogs which they breed for eating.
There are streets of herbalists where all medicinal herbs and roots found in the land are sold. There are shops like apothecaries’, where they sell ready-made medicines as well as liquid
They sell honey, wax, and a syrup made from maize canes, which is as sweet and syrup that is made from the sugar cane. They
called maguey, which is much better than most ~TUp , and from this plant they also make sugar and wine, which they likewise sell. There are many sorts of spun cotton, in hanks of every color, and it seems like the silk market atGranada, except here there is a much greater quantity. They sell as many colors for painters as may be found in Spain and all of excellent hues. They sell deerskins, with and without the hair, and some are dyed white or in various colors, They sell much earthenware, which for the most part is very good; there are both large and small pitchers, jugs, pots, tiles, and many other sorts of vessel, all of good clay and most of them glazed and painted. They sell maize both as a grain and as bread and it is better both in appearance and in taste than any found in the island or on the mainland. They sell chicken and fish pies, and much fresh and salted fish, as well a raw and cooked fish. They sell hens and eggs, and egg of all the other birds I have mentioned, in great number, and they sell tor nuas made from eggs.
|Hernan Cortes, Letters from Mexico, trans, and ed. A. R. Pagden
Yale University Press, Copyright © 1971.
|FOOD AT THE ROYAL PALACE|
|The Amerindians ate a number of foods that the Europeans found strange and sometimes disquieting, including dogs and worms from the maguey plant. Columbus records that on first landing in the Americas he encountered “a serpent” about six
‘cedong, no doubt an iguana, which his men killed–
The people here eat them and the meat is white and
|When they brought food to Montezuma they also provided for all those chiefs to each according to his rank; and their servants and followers were also given to eat. The pantry and the wine stores were left opeAn each day for those who wished to eat and drink. Three or four hundred boys came bringing the dishes, which were without number, for each time he lunched or dined, he was brought every kind of food: meat, fish, fruit and vegetables.|
|From Hernan Cortes, Letters from Mexico, trans. and ed. A. R. Pagden
Yale University Press, Copyright © 1971.
Diaz del Castillo give a detailed description of a
|For each meal, over thirtv-different dishes were prepared by his cooks according to their ways and usage, and they placed small pottery braziers beneath the dishes so that they should not get cold. They prepared more than three hundred plates of the food that Montezuma was going to eat, and more than a thousand for the guard. When he was going to eat, Montezuma would sometimes go out with his chiefs and stewards, and they would point out to him which dish was best, and of what birds and other things it was composed, and as they advised him, so he would eat, but it was not often that he would go out to see the food, and then merely as a pastime.
I have heard it said that they were wont to cook for him the flesh of young boys, but as he had such a variety of dishes, made of so many things, we could not succeed in seeing if they were of human flesh or of other things, for they daily cooked fowls, turkeys, pheasants, native partridges, quail, tame and wild ducks, venison, wild boar, reed birds, pigeons, hares and rabbits, and many sorts of birds and other things which are bred in this country, and they are so numerous that I cannot finish naming them in a hurry; so we had no insight into it, but I know for cer-
|From Bernal Dlaz del Castillo. The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico. 1517 -1521. ed. Genaro Garcia and trans. A. P. Maudslay Farrar, Straand Giroux. Copyright © 1956.|
|The Aztecs had a highly sophisticated system trade and barter, much of which was conducted in the central markets of large towns. Bernal Diaz del Castillo was much impressed by the market
in Mexico at the Tlaltelolco square.
|Montezuma was fond of pleasure and song, and to these he ordered to be given what was left the food and the jugs of cacao. . . .
As soon as the Great Montezuma had dined all the men of the Guard had their meal and as many more of the other house servants, and it seems to me that they brought out over a thousand dishes of the food of which I have spoken, and then over two thousand jugs of cacao all frothed up, as they make it in Mexico, and a limitless quantity of fruit, so that with his women and female servants and break makers and cacao makers his expenses must have been very great. ..
[W]hile Montezuma was at table eating, as I have described, there were waiting on him two other graceful women to bring him tortillas, kneaded with eggs and other sustaining ingredients, and these tortillas were very white, and they were brought on plates covered with clean napkins, and they also brought him another kinds of bread, like long balls kneaded with other kinds of sustaining food, and pan pachol, for so they call it in this country, which is a sort of wafer. There were also placed on the table three tubes much painted and gilded, which held liquidambar mixed
542 PART V The Early Modem World
Let us cease speaking of this and return to the way things were served to him at meal times. It was in this way: if it was cold they made up a large fire of live coals of a firewood made from the bark of trees which did not give off any smoke, and the scent of the bark from which the fire was made was very fragrant, and so that it should not give off more heat than he required, they placed in front of it a sort of screen adorned with figures of idols worked in gold. He was seated on a low stool, soft and richly worked, and the table, which was also low, was made in the
same style as the seats, and on it they placed the table cloths of white cloth and some rather long napkins of the same material. Four very beautiful cleanly women brought water for his hands in a
sort of deep basin which they call xicales [gourds], and they held others like plates below to catch the water, and they brought him towels. And
two other women brought him tortilla bread, and as soon as he began to eat they placed before him a sort of wooden screen painted over with
gold, so that no one should watch him eating. Then the four women stood aside, and four great chieftains who were old men came and stood beside them, and with these Montezuma now and then conversed, and asked them questions, and as a great favor he would give to each of these elders a dish of what to him tasted best. . . .
They brought him fruit of all the different kinds that the land produced, but he ate very little of it. From time to time they brought him,
in cup-shaped vessels of pure gold, a certain drink made from cacao, and the women served this drink to him with great reverence.
Sometimes at meal-times there were present some very ugly humpbacks, very small of stature and their bodies almost broken in half, who are their jesters, and other Indians, who must have been buffoons, who told him witty sayings, and others who sang and danced, for him.
When we arrived at the great market place, called Tlaltelolco, we were astounded at the number of people and the quantity of merchandise that it contained, and at the good order and control that was maintained, for we had never seen such a thing before. The chieftains who accompanied us acted as guides. Each kind of merchandise was kept by itself and had its fixed place marked out. Let us begin with the dealers in gold, silver, and precious stones, feathers, mantles, and embroidered goods. Then there were other wares consisting of Indian slaves loth men and women; and I say that they bring as many of them to that great market for sale as
me Portuguese bring negroes from Guinea; and they brought them along tied to long poles, with collars round their necks so that they could not
escape, and others they left free. Next there were other traders who sold great pieces of cloth and cotton, and articles of twisted thread, and
mere were cacahuateros who sold cacao. In this way one could see every sort of merchandise that is to be found in the whole of New Spain.
There were those who sold cloths of henequen and ropes and the sandals with which they are shod, which are made from the same plant, and
sweet cooked roots, and other tubers which they get from this plant, all were kept in one part of the market in the place assigned to them. In
another part there were skins of tigers and lions, of otters and jackals, deer and other animals and badgers and mountain cats, some stunned and others untanned, and other classes of merchandise.
Let us go on and speak of those who sold lems and sage and other vegetables and herbs in another part, and to those who sold fowls,
cocks with wattles, rabbits, hares, deer, mallards, young dogs and other things of that sort In their part of the market, and let us also men-
lion the fruiterers, and the women who sold cooked food, dough and tripe in their own part of the market; then every sort of pottery made
in a thousand different forms from great water jars to little jugs, these also had a place to themselves; then those who sold honey and honey paste and other dainties like nut paste, and those who sold lumber, boards, cradles, beams, blocks and benches, each article by itself, and the vendors of ocote 1 firewood, and other things of a similar nature. But why do I waste so many words in recounting what they sell in that great market? – for I shall never finish if I tell it all in detail. Paper, which inthis country is called amal, and reeds scented with liquidambar, and full of tobacco, and yellow ointments and things of that sort are sold by themselves, and much cochineal is sold under the arcades which are in that great market place, and there are many vendors of herbs and
other sorts of trades. There are also buildings where three magistrates sit in judgment, and there are executive officers like Alguacils who
inspect the merchandise. I am forgetting those who sell salt, and those who make the stone knives, and how they split them off the stone itself; and the fisherwomen and others who sell some small cakes made from a sort of ooze which they get out of the great lake, which curdles, and from this they make a bread having a flavor something like cheese. There are for sale axes of brass and copper and tin, and gourds and gaily painted jars made of wood. I could wish that I had finished telling of all the
things which are sold there, but they are so numerous and of such different quality and the great market place with its surrounding arcades was so crowded with people, that one would not have been able to see and inquire about it all in two days.
From Bernal Diaz del Castillo. The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico,
7577-7527, ed. Genaro Garcia and trans. A. P. Maudslay Farrar, Straus
and Giroux, Copyright © 1956.