Beyond their warrior nature and sacrifices the Aztecs were also very cunning in using the technology of their neighbours and improving it for their own use. They observed the canoes of the Mayan people running down the many rivers in Southern Mexico and harnessed this, creating something of a trade centre for themselves in Southern America through shipping goods up and down the great rivers in canoes (just watch out for crocodiles!). For this to be successful the Aztecs had to possess many goods to trade and much of their produce were crops which were much more valuable then than they may be now in South America as some tribes were still hunter/gatherers and had not mastered farming like the Aztec people. In fact many of our modern foods come from the angry Aztecs! The Aztecs grew and traded in chilli, corn, pumpkin, tomatoes, turkey, peanuts and, most valuable of all, chocolate (cocoa beans!). These cocoa beans were so valuable they were even used as currency instead of coins. Imagine paying with chocolate today, it would get a bit messy! Of course the cocoa beans in their original state prior to the addition of milk and sugar are solid and bitter, and look more like a coffee bean. Regions of South America are still, though, to this day some of the world’s leading sources of cocoa beans, so you can thank the Aztecs for your dairy milk selection box this Christmas season! Another Aztec food were potatoes though they didn’t actually eat them prior to the arrival of the Spanish because without fat sauces they couldn’t cook them, and raw potatoes aren’t really all that fun!
Of course it wasn’t all fun, and the Aztecs certainly had some unusual foods. One delicacy which is still enjoyed by the natives today is monkey, specifically howler monkeys and spider monkeys. Not so strange when you consider that we eat pigs, sheep, chickens and cows I suppose! Toads and frogs were also on the menu, but not in garlic as they have in France. These poisonous toads were eaten to boost the immune system against poison (doesn’t sound worth the risk to me). They also used cactus which isn’t as spiky as it sounds. Removing the spikes and utilising them as weapons in clubs, the plant was then boiled and the sap (the liquid in the leaves) then drunk. This is where aloe vera comes from which is heralded today for its healthy properties and can be quite expensive - so who’s laughing now?! All in all, the Aztecs were certainly barbaric and the reason we remember them over some of their neighbours and predecessors, such as the Olmecs and Mayans, is because the Aztecs defeated them! An army needs an economy and good produce to run on, though, and the Aztecs must be thanked for some of the super foods they uncovered which are used to this day; isn’t it funny how history catches up with you?!
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