One traditional cooking method in Yucatan, an ancient form of food preparation common to many cultures, is what the Maya call the “pib,” or earth oven. In fact, food cooked in this manner in Yucatán usually references the oven in its name; like Cochinita Pibil or the famous Mucbi Pollo or Pib.
Usually a very hot fire is built in a rectangular almost coffin-shaped pit filled with a layer of firewood covered by a layer of stones. The stones heat up from the fire underneath and end up on the floor of the pit as the wood is burned away. On these hot stones, a rectangular tin box is placed, containing the food to be cooked. The pit is then covered, usually with banana leaves, and finally sealed with earth.
Cochinita Pibil, Pollo Pibil, and Lechón, are the most well known (and delicious) pork or chicken specialties usually cooked in a pit, and of course the Mucbilpollo or Pib.
If you’re not familiar with it, the Pib is some kind of a large baked “Tamal” like delicacy, made especially for the Hanal Pixan (Day of the Dead) festivities. And even when most Yucatecans wait patiently for this time of the year to enjoy Pib, there are certain restaurants in Mérida (such as the “Chaya Maya”), where you can order Mucbipollo all year round.
When it comes to cooking the Pib during the month of October in the rural communities of the Yucatán, the women of the family are in charge of organizing the cooking, from preparing the food to be cooked to preparing the oven. While the men are in charge of all things physical, like cutting and stocking the firewood, cleaning the pit, arranging rocks, wood and tin, shoveling earth, and removing tin when the food is done.
Food is a matter of regional pride in Yucatán, and a big indicator of quality is when a dish is cooked Pibil-style (in Maya: Pib = buried). This means that the food was cooked in an underground oven, which gives it incredible flavor. For symbolic reasons, this method gathers great importance during the time of Hanal Pixán when many Pibil dishes are enjoyed, especially Mucbilpollo which is a baked Tamal practically synonymous with the festivity.
Source: The Riviera Maya Times
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