As we continue our journey north through Central America; we stopped to explore the culture of the Olmec. While studying the “Rubber People”, we were able to put together a beautiful dish of Venison Steaks with Chayote Salad.
The Olmec are considered the first elaborate pre-Columbian culture in Mesoamerica. Dating from 1200 to 400 B.C.E; their name comes from the word Olmecatl, which means “People from the Rubber Country“. This was due in part to their method of extracting latex and mixing it with the juices from the moonflower to create rubber.
While famous for the stone head statues, they also created an earlier language, depicting glyphs that have been found on various stone slabs. These, along with their detailed art and goods, have provided fascinating context to the region for modern day archaeologists.
But what did they eat?
When discussing the Olmec, the assumption would be that they lived a life very similar to the Aztec and Mayans, simply by proximity. However, that’s not true. Whereas the Aztecs and Mayans relied heavily on domesticated animals and crops, the Olmec focused predominately on fish and hunting. This provided a diet of different species of fish along with the presence of deer in archaeological records.
Then, in the sense of farming, the Olmec did do that, however, we have evidence they used the “Slash and Burn” method, by clearing the land for crop growth. They focused their crop growth on squash, beans, manioc, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes; however, later in their society, they would have introduced maize into their diet.
This provided us a great starting point for the meal by focusing on a core protein of Venison and creating a roasted salad of tomatoes, squash and chili pepper. The squash used was quite new to us, the Chayote, which was cultivated in Mesoamerica by the Mayans and Aztec, however, we can assume its ancestor was present for the Olmec.
4 out of 5 stars
I loved this dish. I felt as if the venison provided a new level of flavor, even though I find the meat a bit gamey. The squash salad made me think of summer days, with its light flavor and ability to be filling without oils. I think this dish could be improved being cooked on the grill over the summer.
1 out of 5 stars
Tonight’s dinner… what is there to say other than, I didn’t really care for it. The thing I liked was the deer. I could have done without everything else. The squash was overly sweet for me. This may be because of the medication I am currently taking. Nevertheless, I didn’t really care for the meal.