Posted: Sunday, May 1, 2022. 9:57 am CST.
Photo Credit: Claire Kennedy/Conde Nast Traveler
By Aaron Humes: There is no shortage of reasons to come to Belize. But one many may have not yet considered – but soon will – is the food.
Julia Eskins writes for Conde Nast Traveler Magazine that “In a country where nature is medicine and food has long been the foundation of ancient civilizations, tapping into Belizean culture means tasting it. With a uniquely Caribbean and Central American identity shaped by several cultures, including Kriol (Creole), Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo, Mennonites, East Indian, and Chinese, the flavors here are just as diverse as the landscapes.”
In the south, Lyra Spang, a culinary anthropologist and the founder of Taste Belize Food & Cultural Tours originally from the Toledo district, leads immersive food experiences in and around Placencia as well as chocolate workshops at the stylish beachfront Itz’ana Resort & Residences, and in various locations on the mainland.
Spang has taught travelers much about Belize’s high-quality cacao, grown and used from ancient times to the present among the Maya.
In Placencia, visitors can stop at Barefoot Beach Bar to sip Belizean bitters, a liqueur made with jungle-foraged medicinal roots, barks, and leaves, and The Shak to try creamy seaweed punch, a long-standing smoothie that’s increasingly sparking conversations about Belize’s sustainable seaweed farming initiatives. Or, learn how to make traditional Garifuna dishes like hudut, a hearty meal featuring crispy fried fish, herbed coconut broth, and mashed plantain.
Visitors can learn from the village-level cooperatives such as the San Antonio Women’s Cooperative in Cayo and Las Orquideas in Orange Walk, while supporting the increase in agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers—particularly women, Indigenous peoples, family farmers, and fishers. Try handmade corn tortillas, chimole, a traditional stew made with a spice blend called recado, root vegetables, and chicken, as well as garnaches—crispy tortillas topped with refried beans, cheese, and vegetables.
Even Belize’s trendiest location, Ambergris Caye, is joining in on the homegrown culinary revolution. Alaia Belize features greenhouse-produced items for its Sea Salt Restaurant, from a creamy soup made from chaya (Maya spinach) to Creole bread made with coconut milk, and salad topped with sea moss from Placencia, and puffy golden fry jacks (a breakfast staple made from fried flour dough). House-made liqueurs are reminiscent of Kahlua and Baileys while reducing the carbon emissions associated with importing those items.
The responsible fishing movement combines honouring Maya and Mestizo culture at the world-famous Elvi’s Kitchen with modern technology that allows consumers to trace exactly where their seafood came from with just the scan of a QR code.
And the government is doing its part in supporting it. Says Minister of Agriculture Jose Mai, “The first action is to import as little as possible, produce as much as possible, and export as much as possible. As tourism grows, agriculture needs to grow with it.”
So wherever you go in the Jewel, don’t worry about going hungry: a good meal is always a firehearth away.
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