The morning of my departure to Belize was punctuated with a hold up at the ticket counter. “Your going to Belize to eat?” Don’t they have all those crazy foods? I watch those shows. I’m too picky.” pronounced my ticket agent in Boston. Between my aching arms trying to lift what I was sure was a bag filled with too many pairs of shorts, she began to tell me “to watch out for ‘meals-made- from-bugs’ and ‘crazy organ meats“. When I asked her if she had ever been to Belize or eaten Belizean food, she told me she had never left the US, nor tried the cuisine. I appreciated her cautious advice on all-things-Belizean with the knowing suspicion that her authority came from the ‘University of reality television’, the same way that I am an expert on celebrity, certified by the “school of doctor’s office tabloids.’
There is a disconnect about the food of Belize. Yes, you meet the occasional traveler who has delighted in deeply flavorful cuisine that is the backbone of this culture. However, prior to embarking on this adventure to write about the food scene of Belize, I was peppered with the comments that reflect a knowledge more of the sensational, and the “Out-there they eat eyeballs and intestines! ” belief system. Many Americans don’t know yet know about the country and subsequently, its gastronomy.
Belize on the eastern coast of Central America, north of Guatemala, and just south of the Mexican Yucatan. It is a food lover’s paradise. The flavors of cuisine can be attributed to the conflation of cultures, and the support of a burgeoning interest in culinary tourism. Belize has a long and storied reputation for attracting people, starting as the native home of the Mayans, then the Spanish and English colonials. The country welcomed refugee Garinagu, a Caribbean island people who are direct descendents of shipwrecked African slaves and Arawak Indians. Belize has also been populated by inhabitants of the commonwealths of the UK, and the Chinese. Most recently, it has been called home by Mennonites migrating from North America, and Latinos from around Central America.
Each group has brought with it a distinct set of cooking practices. When applied to the natural resources of the land and sea, they make for an eye-opening eating experience.