To celebrate its exhibition, Fiery Pool: The Maya and the Mythic Sea, the Saint Louis Art Museum (in Forest Park; 314-721-0072) could have gone in any number of directions.
|what could possibly go better with an exhibition of Mayan art and artifacts than Mayan-inspired chocolates by Kakao? How 'bout Kakao's Mayan-inspired chocolates paired with beer from Maplewood neighbor Schlafly?|
One direction that was not explored: taking inspiration from one of the objects on display, an eighth-century vomit spoon carved from manatee bone.
Regurgitation aside, Mayan iconography is loaded with food imagery: ducks, corn, alligator. Seafood too: conch and frogs, lobster, shrimp and turtle. One well-to-do Mayan was so fond of his victuals that he had a special platter made for one particular delicacy -- a fact researchers divined by translating the inscription on the plate, which reads: "His plate, his eating-instrument for white venison tamales."
The Mayans were also chocolate lovers. Matthew Robb, the art museum's assistant curator for ancient American and Native American art, notes that there were vessels designed for the express purpose of drinking chocolate beverages. "The Maya word for chocolate was kakaw," Robb tells Gut Check. "On these vessels the syllable ka- is often represented with a fish head accompanied by a sign for the number two. So: ka times two, plus the syllable for wa -- in Maya writing you drop the final vowel -- equals kakaw."
Chocolate and fish? Gut Check once vowed never to return to a restaurant that drizzled chocolate sauce over shrimp. Fortunately, SLAM took a more palatable approach, partnering with locally based producers Kakao Chocolate and Schlafly Beer to develop Beer + Chocolate = Food of the Gods. The event, held at the museum Thursday, March 31, from 6:30 until 9 p.m., features six beer-and-chocolate pairings, along with live music, hors d'oeuvres and tours of the exhibition.
Pairing beer and chocolate made sense to the Mayans. They never played beer pong or debated the place of a lemon wedge in the hefeweizen, but they were all over fermented-corn beverages, and those Mayan drinking vessels would do a frat boy proud -- they hold a quart at the very least. The chocolate apparatus, meanwhile, featured a spout to aerate the frothy hot liquid. Doubtless some anthropologist somewhere has written a thesis on how Mayan methods of chocolate consumption evolved into generations of modern-day children blowing bubbles in chocolate milk.More »