Bread of the Milpa
This is a ritual dish for the Food of the Milpa (janlikool) and Praying for Rain (ch'a chaak) ceremonies. The number 13, the masa, and the sikil were all sacred to the ancient Maya. The thirteen layers represent the thirteen layers of the cosmos. These breads are sometimes marked with sacred designs in achiote-colored oil or stock, as well as with sikil.
2 lb. masa
2 cups cooked beans (black-eyed peas or black beans) (optional)
6 oz. sikil
Make thick tortillas of the masa. Stack them with layers of sikil and beans in between, till they are seven tortillas high (13 layers in all). Wrap in banana leaves and cook in pib.
Variant: Piim waj
Maya for "thick corncake." Sometimes reduplicated (pimpim) or translated into Spanish as gordita.
Make a giant tortilla: 1 foot across and 1/4" thick. Wrap in leaves and bake in pib. Or it can be cooked, unwrapped, on a griddle.
This is much better if the masa is mixed with lard, as for tamales, especially if you are cooking it on the stovetop.
It is even better if mixed with cooked beans (black-eyed peas are the traditional ones), including their liquid. In this case it has to be wrapped and baked (in oven, about 350o, if no pib is at hand). It is then eaten with Tomato or Chile Sauce.
Is Waj ("Corncake of New Maize")
Grind up new maize (cut from ears of sweet corn) and leave standing for a few days until very slightly sour. Add salt and make into very thin tortillas. Cook till crisp.
More sophisticated version:
1 cup white flour
1/2 cup lard
Kernels from 3 roasting ears, cut off close
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Grind kernels. Mix with other ingredients. Make into very thin tortillas and cook on griddle.
Kernels from really young, tender sweet corn are really too soft for this; one needs kernels with some substance. The Maya eat young corn at the stage that in my youth was called "roasting ears"—the kernels still tender, but somewhat more starchy than the sweet-corn stage. One can use tender sweet corn kernels, however, by reducing the quantity somewhat, so the resulting dough is firm enough to make good tortillas.
Variant: common is a sweet version, using sugar instead of salt.
Saka' (Sak ja', "white water": Corn gruel)
The other staple food--along with waj.
The ancient saka' is just corn meal or mashed new corn in water. Today, the word usually means pozole:
Wash nixtamal kernels (available in Mexican markets). Boil till they break open. Drain. Grind and form into a ball the size of a tennis ball.
Variant: Fry or toast the nixtamalized kernels before grinding.
For consumption, the ball is dissolved in water, stock, or soup. The simple rural method is to dissolve in water with salt and chile.
To approximate saka': Cook a small amount of "Maseca" or other prepared Mexican corn meal in good stock, stirring constantly.
Similar preparations are made by processing the maize in slightly different ways. Sikil can be mixed in and the resulting atole cooked.
Fancy pozole or atole: Grind fresh green corn. Mix with sugar. Coconut cream can be mixed in if desired.
Ground toasted corn kernels, made into a drink, are pinole. (Pozole, pinole and atole are Nahuatl words; saka' is the basic Maya word.)