This title can be taken three ways. There is a literal time change when you fly to Belize from almost anyplace in the U.S.—which itself has six time zones, counting Alaska and Hawaii. Canada has five time zones. If you’re coming from anywhere else, you’ll have to figure out the time change for yourself. As a country, Belize represents a different time—a slower, more relaxed one—and your mind and body will have to get in sync with it. But those two words can also be taken to mean that the times themselves change, and that’s what I want to talk about today, now that Belize is 50 years behind me.
In my memoir, How to Cook a Tapir, I describe our first meal in our first house: tacos made with hot, fresh corn tortillas and canned sardines. Raw tortilla dough—that is, water mixed with ground, dried corn treated with lime, sometimes referred to as masa—was to the Maya what rice is to the Chinese, and pasta is to Italians. When the men worked in their milpas or went hunting, all they took with them to eat was masa, carefully folded in a mox leaf to keep it moist. If their hens were laying, they would also take a hard-cooked egg.
Corn the way the Maya and their northern neighbors, the Aztec, eat it and think about it has very little to do with how Americans eat it. Home gardeners like me plant the seeds (dried corn kernels), water them, hope for sunshine, and then watch the plants grow. After the tassels emerge, the ears of corn form. When the silk begins to turn brown, I put a pot of water on the stove to boil, and I go outside and pick three or four ears of corn. After husking them and rubbing the silk off, I drop them in boiling water, cover the pot, turn the heat off, and set the timer for six minutes. How’s that for fast food? Continue reading