In between passing plates to my left, I rested my hands on the dinner table awaiting the anticipated phrase, “Buen Provecho!”---the Spanish equivalent of ‘bon appetite’--- before eating. This momentous pause allowed me to ponder the differences between American and Guatemalan eating habits and patterns.
Just like North Americans, most Guatemalans eat three meals a day around the same hours (breakfast 6:30-900 AM, lunch 12:00AM-2:00 PM, and dinner 6:00-10:00 PM). A key difference, however, is that meals are quite informal, focusing more on socializing than on eating. Similarly, almost all meals contain white rice, corn tortillas, or black beans (fried, mashed, or whole). Yet, the frequent consumption of these items, and some habits, depends on one’s socioeconomic status and geographic location (i.e., urban/rural).
In urban areas, Guatemalans have a variety of foods to choose from just like many Americans. Breakfast usually consists of coffee, toast, cheese, eggs, fried plantains (grilled bananas), and fried black beans. In between meals, fresh fruit, fried foods (e.g., tamales, empanadas, and doughnuts), hot chocolate, and fruit juices are consumed throughout the day as snacks. Lunch and dinner revolve around various meats and vegetables accompanied by soup, a simple salad, rice, and/or tortillas. Traditionally, lunch is the largest meal of the day, and dinner is eaten around 7 or 8 PM. Chicken and beef are popular and commonly prepared in chili sauce or in stews with yucca, carrots, celery, cucumbers and radishes. If dessert is desired, flan (caramelized custard), fried plantains, or fresh fruit are popular items.
In contrast, a rural diet is slightly different and simpler, with most meals containing corn and beans. At breakfast, black beans and tortillas are served with coffee. Around 10 AM, a mid-morning snack is eaten followed by the large mid-day lunch. At 4 PM another snack, usually of coffee and a sweet pastry, is enjoyed. Dinner is typically eggs, vegetables, black beans, and corn tortillas. Extremely poor Guatemalans, however, may only eat corn, beans, and fruit. It is interesting to note that in some communities, men and boys are encouraged to eat first while women and girls are forced to eat last.
Stick around next time for Guatemala’s Nutritional Reality.
Until then, “Buen Provecho!”
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Photos from Explorers In Guatemala.