“E’le’lah ki yete he’. Ka tza’hik – yan a pa’tik u tikin tah – wah ma pa’tik u tikin tah, ma’a ki’ ku ho’k’o.” Mr. Samuel Mai was instructing me on how to fry up water spinach with eggs. I was nibbling away at a leaf he’d plucked from the vine climbing up its trellis, while he explained that the spinach had to cook down, till it was ‘dry’ (tikin), then, and only then, should you add the eggs – otherwise, it’s not good or tasty.

Oh, and yes, he was telling me this in our native Yucatec Mayan as he gave me a tour of the beautiful garden at Gaïa Riverlodge in the Mountain Pine Ridge.

Returning home is one of the few experiences that gives me complete and utter joy. I totally forget about the ‘real’ world as I immerse myself wholly into enjoying the fresh mountain air, eating the freshest of produce while both listening to, and speaking, my beloved Mayan language. Mr. Sam had greeted us as we arrived at Gaïa, immediately recognizing me and thus he addressed me in our native language from the get-go. I was thrilled, as I never get a chance to dust off my linguistics on the island, and they say practice makes perfect. Then I learned that he oversaw the garden from which 60%-75% of the resort’s food came from.

Thus, I took a walk-through rows and trellises, learning about each different plant, tasting what he handed me, without question. From Cuban mint to spearmint and the standard, to peppery arugula and mustard greens, kale, lettuce and my very own sweet pepper – I was having a salad for breakfast and didn’t even know it! I crunched happily away at the snap peas, regular peas, string beans (of varying colors), and even tasted sorrel/wild hibiscus. I held firm against radishes and celery (my most hated veggies). My envious eyes practically watered at the green soursop, starfruit, oranges, grapefruits and mango blossoms. I almost cried seeing the pineapples lying on their side, having fallen victim to bird attacks. All along the way, Mr. Sam explained the organic process of keeping the plants growing and thriving, without using chemical fertilizers. He showed me fruiting lime trees that he worked on hybridizing – their fruit growing in beautiful bunches and soon ready for that salad dressing – or to give the Mojito its classic tang.

Every meal we ate at Gaïa during our three-night stay was full of flavor and bright with fresh vegetables and fruits. From a platter of fresh fruit to start off breakfast, with a side of gorgeous, fresh-squeezed orange juice, to some of the crunchiest, tastiest sautéed vegetables accompanying our meats and starches, we were in foodie heaven. Being in the Cayo District, where fruits and vegetables grow in abundance, it’s no surprise that every meal at Gaïa is literally farm to table! We certainly savored every bite.

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About the Author: Mary Gonzalez

Mary Gonzalez writes under the pseudonym 'Tia Chocolate'. Tia Chocolate enjoys writing short stories that focus on her life growing up in the small Maya village of San Antonio, Cayo District, Belize.
Tia loves (and we mean LOVE) eating and writing about her food experiences, often times trying out new recipes to try and recreate the foods of her memories. She also loves to travel, indulging in the culture wherever she is privy to visit.
She is slave to a giant cat named Kitty Boo Boo, and her cooking exploits are enjoyed by her significant other, Pookie.

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