I love this passage on the naming of tomatoes in Nahuatl (the Aztec language) from the Florentine Codex:
"...the tomato seller (Tomanomacac) sells large tomatoes (xitomatl), small tomatoes (miltomatl), leaf tomatoes (Izoatomatl), thin tomatoes (xaltomatl), large serpent tomatoes (coaxitotomatl), nipple-shaped tomatoes (chichioalxitomatl), serpent tomatoes (Coatomatl). He also sells coyote tomatoes (coiotomatl), sand tomatoes (tomapitaoac), those which are yellow, very yellow, quite yellow, red, very red, quite ruddy, ruddy, bright red, reddish, rosy dawn colored."
I have no idea what all these tomatoes could possibly be, but what a marvelous market! Between this passage and encountering several recipes for tomato and corn (tlaolli) stew that had some obvious post-contact influences such as cream I decided to try my hand at reconstructing what an Aztec tomato and corn stew might have looked like. I would have loved to have made a serpent tomato stew, but it was large tomatoes that I had on hand.
reconstructed Aztec xitomatl and tlaolli stew
- 1 sweet red chile
- 1 green chile, like a Poblano
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 large tomatoes
- 2 ears corn cut off the cob (about 2 cups)
- 4 cups of water
- 1/4 cup chopped epazote
Blacken your chiles - this can be done in advance, either on a burner, in the oven or on a grill. Let them cool, remove the blackened skin and deseed and chop them into bite-sized pieces. Roasting the corn can be done in advance as well, also in the oven or on a grill. Let cool and cut off the cob.
Heat a pot over medium heat and add the garlic. Sear for about a minute, stirring constantly, then add chiles, tomatoes and corn. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 more minutes. Stir in chopped epazote before serving.
Serve with tortillas, called tlaxcali in Nahuatl, and small pan roasted chiles, like Padrons.
If you can't find epazote, use cilantro or parsley or just leave it out. The soup will still be tasty.
Recipe adapted from The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook: Recipes from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian by Richard Hetzler and Cocina Prehispanica by Ana M. de Benitez.