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Maize (corn) is at the heart of Mayan culture. Maya creation stories and ancient depictions portray kings as divine, majestic corn plants and maize agriculture continues to provide explicit metaphors of human birth, flourishing, death and regeneration in the lifecycle of the modern Maya. For centuries, the main food staples of the Maya have been corn, beans, squash, and chili peppers. Native fruits and nuts such as avocados, pineapples, papaya pitahaya, or anona, and the breadnut or ramon tree were also added to the table. Different types of corn with unique tastes and textures are soaked in water and lime to release nutrients, and the softened corn, or nixtamal, is then ground with stone manos and metates to make a masa dough. This dough is used to make flat tortillas and delicious tamales (noj waaj in Mayan) with an array of fillings, which are wrapped in leaves and baked or boiled. Typical fillings include beans, squash seeds and the meats of deer, turkey, peccaries, iguana, turtle, fish or other animals.

Hieroglyphic texts on some ancient Maya ceramics also describe their contents as a liquid food called ul, which is a kind of gruel made from cooked corn and water. Today this food is known as atole in the Maya highlands and sa’ among the Yucatec Maya. A similar drink called pinole or maatz is also made from toasted and ground corn. Pozole is a more solid form of atole. A dizzying array of flavorings added to these drinks include ground pumpkin seeds, chile, ground chocolate with anise and allspice, fermented atole and honey. Modern-day Maya farmers continue to bring these staples to the fields to satiate their hunger as they work.

Food represents such a strong presence in the lifeways of the Maya, that the Witte has decided to present unique culinary experiences as part of its commitment to Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed. 


Gather your friends or plan a date night and join the Witte for a tasty and interactive evening for adults. Featuring local chefs and a diverse array of cuisines, cooking demonstrations spotlight culturally and seasonally themed menu items. Meet top local chefs, farmers, ranchers and food historians in an intimate setting as they present information, history and stories about the selected menu. Each program will feature a wine, beer or spirit pairing from the finest Texas winemakers, brewers and mixologists.

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Epicurean Adventure

Culinary and events leader, The RK Group and the Witte Museum present an unrivaled culinary and cultural collaboration, Maya-An Epicurean Adventure. Groups of 65 guests or more are invited to discover an intimate look into the life of the Maya through culinary exploration and private curator led tours.

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