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Tobic: a taste for everyone

In the region of Totonicapán the locals make a dish that has acquired regional traits, and it is the tobic, a word that jeans 'done by everyone together', and evokes the great symbolism of community work and the pleasure of eating with the loved ones.

It is prepared with vegetables, among those güisquiles, potatoes, cabbage, and carrots; tobic is a dish based on the sauce seasoned with cumin, pepper, onion, tomato, and achiote. The meat gives the protein contribution.

This food is served in earthenware pots, and people eat it in special occasions like weddings and community feasts. Usually a bottle of powdered chili is set on the table to finish seasoning, so each one can add the amount he or she considers convenient.

Tobic, as the other party and daily meals in the Mesoamerican area, has deep Pre Hispanic roots. In the case of tobic, as other recipes that remain to this day, it is a derivation of the Pre Hispanic pulique. The fact of being a favorite in patron feasts and sacred and profane celebrations shows the importance of the dish, even though its symbolism has not been researched, as anthropologist Celso Lara states.  

There are references to tobic even before the Conquest; during Colonial times it acquired the preparation it has today, like the use of potatoes.  

Even though it is prepared in other parts of the Mesoamerican region, tobic has become a symbol of the kich'e region. The most important places where the dish is prepared are Totonicapán, San Cristóbal Totonicapán, and part of the department of Quiché, says Lara. In words of the anthropologist, 'it stuck there and it is their main dish'.

The gastronomic repertoire of the locals also includes pepián, a dish prepared based on a sauce with pork meat. Besides that, it is possible to find another dish of seasoned flavor, the stew, which is made with thyme, laurel, pepper, guaque chili, and green peppers. As a side dish, they usually serve simple small tamales, made with corn dough wrapped in corn leaves or tusas, and cooked. Because they are not seasoned, these tamales do not interfere with the flavor of the stew.

Desserts can not be left behind. For that reason, you can easily find yolk bread, enjoyed much more accompanied by coffee. For the delight of those who love sweet tastes there is a beverage known as joch, which is a thick drink prepared with corn grains and chocolate. During Pre Hispanic times the cocoa drink was used during rituals and it showed the wealth of the people, later the Spaniards altered the flavor by adding sugar, which turned it into chocolate. That is why joch is an evolution that shows a cultural blend in the land of the Kich'e lordship.

When the Spanish monks arrived to the region, they discovered that the natives loved commerce. Thanks to the trading connections, ideas, customs, and products were mixed; these determined the richness of the flavor in the Highlands. An heiress of such an old custom is Mrs. Teresa Cruz, the centennial recipes that please the local taste have passed through her hands. Cruz has prepared food and sold it in the market of Totonicapán for 18 years, the old exchange and food preparation traditions will remain alive in people like her, who make the past a present on every dish.  

Traveling editorial staff