The Potential of Guatemala around the world

The history of cooking has already celebrated the French tradition of cuisine classique and nouvelle cuisine, and then there was the exotic explosion of Asian cuisine with the spice boom and its renewal in Spain, in modern day, with the new nouvelle cuisine and the acceptance of science.
Nowadays, the kitchen is redirecting its vision towards local, natural and traditions. This is proven through documentaries – such as Chef´s Table – or the San Pellegrino awards in 2016, which have celebrated Massimo Botura – and his traditional Italian gastronomy – and Pierre Hermé – and his traditional French pastries as the best in the world.

This new trend towards local, natural and traditions, is, in some way, opening the doors to the recognition of traditional Latin American kitchens, kitchens that until today had remained unknown. The locals are beginning to discover and value these kitchens, both for their biological diversity and for their completely unknown flavors.
The positioning that Brazil, Mexico and Peru have achieved in the world, through their cuisine, is truly enviable when considering the resources they have.

My theory, considering the characteristics of each country and its relevance in contemporary gastronomy, is that Guatemala will soon reach that position if it takes the appropriate actions.

Peru´s work began by focusing on external influences, while clinging to its ingredients, defining its gastronomy through Asian and European tradition, exploiting and researching the products it could produce on its land. This allowed them to increase their wealth by tradition and by “mixing“ these dishes, being now one of the countries with the highest number of typical dishes. Part of this success is attributed to the fact that they have gained a lot of knowledge, thanks to projects such as Mater Initiative, which is dedicated to Peruvian cultural and biological research.

Mexico focused on its ancestral traditions, exalting its local cooks, customs and each of its regions, demonstrating their great satisfaction for each regional dish and local ingredient. The best feature of the Mexican people is their pride of their culture and that is reflected in their gastronomy; since each person knows and defends it as being a valuable cultural inheritance.

Quintonil, Pujol and Manzanilla are restaurants that have stood out for adapting the traditional cuisine to restaurants with white tablecloths, while personages like Abigail Mendoza stand out among the best cooks, maintaining her humble origin and her traditions in high regards.

Brazil promoted the use of non-traditional products originating from the Amazon. Chefs – like Alex Atala – struggled to know and promote his lands biological and cultural diversity, which generated support for native communities, product development and trade. The restaurants DOM and Maní, show that a gastronomic experience is discovered with nature.

Guatemala potentially has the characteristics that have allowed these three countries to excel in gastronomy; but when investigating the current restaurants, it is clear that there is no consistency even about what Guatemalan food is.

The development of Guatemalan gastronomy, needs the support from chefs and restaurateurs who show the public with pride, what is the true Guatemalan Cuisine; but they should also be able to define it. The authenticity of a local cuisine, as these three countries show us, is in the traditions (Mexico), the acceptance of cultural mixing (Peru) and in the ingredients (Brazil).

Our role as cooks and diners is to accept that the dishes we have been eating for generations are a cultural heritage, that our cultural techniques – such as ixtamalizado – are as valuable as cooking in ashes or a sous vidé and that patio ingredients – as The chaya- are a way to share our gastronomy with the world.

 

 

 

 

 

The roots of our cuisine are millennial, their origins begins with the agriculture of the Mayan civilization in 2000 BC; the traditions of Guatemalan cuisine have existed for more than four thousand years, the only drawback is that as cooks and diners we have forgotten that the cultural heritage of this food is still alive and we must begin by valuing it ourselves.

Our cultural diversity allows us to learn and develop dishes of great complexity; we have the inheritance of 26 indigenous groups, in addition to our Spanish heritage – which remained after the conquest – and the legacy of communities that have migrated to Guatemala since the 30´s. All of these influence and are a part of our culture and it is our duty to accept it, Guatemalan cuisine is much more than typical dishes, it is Avant-Garde.

We are an agricultural country, which helps the new trend of market cuisine – local food consumption – we have a combination of soils and climates that facilitates the production of a wide variety of crops – fruits and vegetables – throughout the year. The diversity of microclimates in such a small region allows the production of fresh and diverse products, as well as direct connections with products from the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.

Guatemala is potentially bigger than Peru, Brazil and Mexico but it will be able to stand out when, as cooks and diners, we realize the inherent value of our gastronomic culture; instead of wanting to match the gastronomy of another place. Our products are easy to produce, high quality and have lots of diversity; our gastronomic culture remained “pure”; for more than 3,400 years; and our contemporary mixing is extremely broad so rediscovering our gastronomy is ready to happen.

Translated by: Melissa Schroden

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