Aztec Food and Meals Described
The "gruel of maize" here mentioned as forming usually the Aztec breakfast suggests the "hominy of the Iroquois," which, like it, was not unlikely kept constantly prepared in every Mexican house as a lunch for the hungry. Two meals each day are mentioned by other Spanish authors, but as the Aztecs, as well as the tribes in Yucatan and Central America, were ignorant of the use of tables and chairs in eating their food, divided their food from the kettle, placing the dinner of each person usually in a separate bowl, and separated at their meals, the men eating first and by themselves, and the women and children afterwards, this similarity of usage renders it probable they were not far removed from the Iroquois in respect to the time and manner of taking their food. Montezuma's dinner, witnessed by Bernal-Diaz and others, and elaborately described by a number of authors, shows that the Aztecs had a smoking hot dinner each day, prepared regularly, and on a scale adequate to a large household; that the dinner of each person was placed in one bowl, and all these bowls to the number of several hundred were brought in and set down together upon the floor of one room, where they were taken up one by one by the male members of the household, and the contents eaten sitting down upon the floor or standing in the open court, as best suited them. The breakfast that preceded it, and the supper that follows, are not mentioned, from which we infer that there was neither a breakfast nor a supper for these inquisitive observers to see. Neither is the subsequent dinner of the women and children of the household mentioned, from which it may be inferred that as the men ate their dinner first in a particular hall by themselves, the women and children took their dinner later in another hall, not seen by the Spaniards.
In the accounts of Montezuma's dinner a cook-house or kitchen is mentioned, in which the dinner for the large household of the "Tecpan" or "official house," so fully explained above by Mr. Bandelier, was prepared. This kitchen, and the use of another room, where the bowls containing the dinner of each person separately were set down on the floor in a mass by themselves—an incipient dining-room—make their first appearance in the Middle Status of barbarism. But, as will be noticed, they are but rude realizations of the kitchen and dining-room of civilized man. The pueblo houses in Yucatan and Chiapas, now in ruins, are without chimneys, from which it may be inferred that no cooking was done within them. At Uxmal we recognize in the Governor's House, the Tecpan or official-house, and in the House of the Nuns, and other structures which formed the pueblo, the joint-tenement houses in which the body of the tribe resided. If the truth of the matter is ever ascertained, it will probably be found that the dinner for each household group, consisting of several families, was prepared in a common cook-house outside of the main structure, and that it was divided at the kettle to the individuals of each household.