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4 posts categorized "Food and Drink"


Little things

I don't have any big news, but here's some little news.

Winter in Lima is cold, damp, and cloudy, nearly always gray. But we're getting into spring now, which means that the sun peeks out every now and then to warm us up. Everything is suddenly brighter, warmer, more colorful, more alive.

In case you haven't noticed, I love food. There happens to be a fine selection of fruit in Peru, much of it arriving in Lima from the jungle and the mountains. This here is one of my favorites, the granadilla, native to the Andes. Roughly the size of an apple, it has a smooth, hard exterior which, once cracked, reveals a soft inner lining to protect the delicious fruit within. It contains many little pouches of juice with little black seeds in them - the seeds are edible and pleasantly crunchy. The juice pouches are sweet, almost like candy, the size of pomegranate juice pouches, only much softer. My friends and I joke that it looks like something from outer space, containing hundreds of alien eggs ready to hatch in your gut. Enjoy!


Mashed palta (avocado) on toast is always a pleasure. With a Gustie mug of tea. Note that the granadilla is from the Andes, and I assume the avocado is from the drier coastal regions? Not sure. And all kinds of tropical fruit arrives in Lima from the Jungle. Peru is a hodgepodge of ecosystems. Even within the Andes, thousands of varieties of potatoes, quinua, kiwicha, oca, etc. were developed by the Incas so they could grow food (or raise animals where they couldn't) at any altitude microclimate.


Sunday lunches with my whole extended host family are becoming a thing. Everybody brings some food, potluck style. We eat well and have fun. My host mom Pola's brother and sister come, as well as their sons and daughters, who in turn bring their sons and daughters. It ends up being 15-20 people. Not such a little thing, I guess. The point of it is, my host family has had a lot of health problems lately, and this is a way to bring them together and share at least one afternoon a week.


I've realized that I love hearing people tell ghost stories, particularly firsthand accounts of seeing supernatural things. I have a hard time believing in ghosts - I have never seen anything I couldn't somehow explain. But I have met people who claim to have seen and felt things beyond explanation. I guess I'm fascinated by ghost stories the way people are fascinated by UFO's and Bigfoot: it's something beyond what we know, and even if it doesn't exist, I'm fascinated that people want to believe it. I've taken to asking everyone I know if they've ever seen a ghost. If I hear enough of them, perhaps it'll teach me a thing or two about the cultures here as well.

Apparently in the jungle of Peru, people see duendes. I've seen it translated as goblin, imp, elf, spirit, but it's generally some sort of magical being. These duendes look just like people, only they float through the air. Generally they only go for weaker-spirited people. If the look at you, you might faint.

I enjoy this artists work, which I see in the street here and there. It's kind of a fun, quirky style, reminiscent of Jhonen Vasquez. Now I'm always on the lookout.

I wonder how this fits into the planning of public space - I have a class studying the history and anthropology of public spaces in Lima. How were things planned/not planned and how are they actually used? So far, we've mostly looked at the middle/upper class conceptions of public space until the early 20th century. As a vast generalization, they saw urban planning as a way to create a national identity, a way to make Peru modern, a way to improve public hygeine (and through that, improve race in Peru. I know it sounds crazy, we have Positivism to thank). But in the middle-class neighborhoods where I live and go to school, when was the transition to allow this playful monstrosity?


Street art and pucp 007

Savor the aroma of your coffee, feel the thrill of a bus ride, and let the wind caress you through the window. Peace, Ian


Reflections of a vegetarian in Lima

Lúcuma072Commonly used in desserts, juices, and ice cream, the lúcuma itself is actually a surprisingly dry fruit. It's avocado-like in its pit and skin structure, but the fruit itself is mildly sweet and kind of pasty.

Since last fall in the U.S. I was eating vegetarian, mostly for political and environmental reasons.  I am not morally opposed to eating meat, and I enjoy eating it particularly if it has come from an environmentally sustainable source, where the animals were treated well. Eating vegetarian in the U.S. was great because I largely had food independence at college (where there also happened to be a fair amount of veggie options). I had time to help cook when I was home, and I knew enough about the food system to explain to people why I ate vegetarian. I figured my own actions make some small difference, but it is also important to use the "why are you eating vegetarian?" moments to spread the word.

Tamal PeruanoHuaraz Cuzco 002The Peruvian tamal, similar to the Mexican, consists of a corn-based filling which is wrapped up and cooked. However, Peruvian tamales really feature the corn stuff: it contains maybe a couple bites of pork and an olive. It is a bit richer and larger than Mexican tamales I have had, and is wrapped in banana leaves (or another type that I don't know the name of) instead of corn husks. Delicious. Though I can't get myself to eat it on bread like my host family

In Lima, on the other hand, I live with a host family. I don't want to impose my diet on a family kind enough to take me into their home. Veggie options are limited: Peruvian cooking tends to feature seafood or meat, and vegetarianism is not particularly established here. I don't expect to have a great deal of time to cook, since I will be studying and commuting to the university. At this point, at least, I couldn't begin to say what sort of meat practices I'd be protesting in Peru, beyond pure guesswork. And I'm here to immerse myself in another culture, which in my mind includes getting to know the food.

ManáHuaraz Cuzco 370 Maná, my favorite company here, they ought to be paying me for a product placement. They make a lot of whole-grain snacks using local ingredients. Often kiwicha, which is a very small and nutritious grain. Often coca, which in its natural, non-corrupted form and has amazing medicinal properties. Has essential vitamins, energizes, relieves altitude sickness, good for stomach problems, aids digestion, anti-diarrhea. Coca-infused kiwicha/honey granola bars...mmmm

As it's played out, I've been talking with host mom Pola about it. I eat meat and seafood that she prepares, but she also tries to avoid cooking exclusively meat. When I go out with friends, I try to order something veggie for myself, but I try other foods too, to get to know the local cuisine. For students going abroad who are more strictly committed to their veggie diet, I think it's best to choose a country very carefully, be prepared to make time in a busy study schedule to cook, and research that country's food system before you go. You can't expect a vegetarian host family, but vegetarianism in Peru is definitely possible - there's a wide variety of beans, fruits, vegetables, and especially tubers, and restaurants fairly often have some sort of veggie option (in Lima, at least, there are even a few purely vegetarian restaurants if you go looking for them). Study abroad begs the question: how will I fit in a new environment? This is part of my answer, but I'm still working it out.




Huaraz Cuzco 021 An Afroperuvian classic. It's grilled cow heart. Now before you start turning up your nose, the heart's just another muscle, and it happens to be a delicious muscle, especially when marinated in its own juice along with garlic, salt, (probably cumin? and I didn't catch all the ingredients) and roasted over real coals. On a stick. Might as well bring it to the state fair.



Uploading photos is sloooow. I have more food photos at my travelblog.

Mistura 002

A giant fork. Awwww yeah

"Lima: Gastronomic Capital of the World," say the posters in town. Its a brag, of course, but it's not without substance. The restaurant scene in Lima is kicking, full of cebicherías, chifas (chinese-peruvian fusion), parrilleras (grills), anticucherías (grills specialized in anticuchos. See photo) and I've been told it's the home to a number of world-famous chefs. Lima is a cultural crossroads between Spain, the Andes, the Amazon, China, Africa, and more. What better place to have an entire festival devoted to food?

Mistura 110

For ten days each September, the Parque de la Reserva in cental Lima is flooded with chefs, foodies, connoisseurs and tourists from around the world. Come hungry. Get reduced prices on delicacies from famous chefs, visit Huariques (hole-in the wall restaurants), indulge in Amazonian tacu tacu, then waltz over to the Sierra for some Pachamanca. Drink and purchase aromatic coffees that normally are for export only, get cheap and delicious pisco sour from el Rincón del Pisco.


Mistura 102
This is a really cool food that I didn't feel like standing in line for. Cooked in a hole in the ground: subterranean meat, potatoes, veggies, awww yeah

How things work at Mistura: There are Banco Continental stands at various locations, where you can buy tickets of 1, 3, 6, and 12 soles. Then you take those tickets and buy food with them. It's probably partly an effort to ease cashiering at food stands, and partly a way to encourage people to overestimate how much money they'll need. Remember, you can always buy more tickets. Also, don't make the mistake I did: I expected the tickets to be valid everywhere. With my wad of tickets in hand, I found that in the Gran Mercado, and at the really famous food stands, they often expect cash.

  Mistura 047

My favorite part was probably the Gran Mercado. Hundreds of stands of producers from all over the country, offering samples and selling cheese, fruits, kiwicha (a very nutritious andean grain) granola, every kind of potato imaginable, honey, wine, pisco, yogurt. It was interesting to see how things were marketed. Camu camu, an amazonian fruit, is supposed to be a rich in antioxidants (health fad?). I heard various Kiwicha astronaut references, confirming what our Anthropology professor, Juan Carlos, pointed out to us one day: that Kiwicha has become repopularized because astronauts eat it. Not because the Incas ate it, not because it's Peruvian, local, and healthy. On the other hand, Peruvians eat rice with just about every lunch. Peru produces very little rice, instead importing it from Asia. Bread is a daily food, but Peru produces very little wheat, instead importing it from Argentina. As in the case of camu camu and kiwicha, there's a certain market logic that can reconnect people with certain traditional foods, but it has to be presented as new and exciting.

Mistura 036
There are so many types of peppers in Peru. It's pretty awesome

Mistura isn't just about stuffing your face, though. It's great publicity for restaurants and food producers. It's also an opportunity for people in the food industry to network. Vendors connect with producers, and they're better able to find local, sustainable sources. For innovative companies that are trying to operate in environmentally responsible ways, conserving biodiversity in Peru, it's a great way to share ideas and promote themselves.

Mistura 056

My friend Emily and I had an interesting experience though: We were wandering in a seating area which was as packed as the rest of the park. Suddenly, a lady asks us in English "excuse me, are you tourists?" The easy answer was yes. She led us to a fenced area marked "Zona de turistas." We walked through a supervised gate to a private seating area. If I remember correctly what they said, Mistura is working together with some tourism companies, and they have had the problem in the past that tourists have a hard time finding seating. So, because tourists are here for a limited time, which they expect to be enjoyable, there is a special seating area for their convenience.

We asked if all tourists were welcome, and they said that any tourist, foreign or Peruvian, could enter. We asked how they identified tourists, and they replied that they just have to guess.

As far as we could tell, everyone was having a hard time finding seating. Our lingering question was this: how did they know we were tourists? Before we even opened our mouths they spoke English to us and invited us over. They didn't ask if we were with a tour company. It might have something to do with clothing, and perhaps to an extent you can tell by how people act, but it was probably mostly a race thing. We're not special, but we're white, so we look like tourists and get preferential treatment. So, among people who don't look white, how do they distinguish tourists? A well-intentioned effort to aid the tourism industry seems to translate into a situation where white people have seats, and "other"s might not. It's not a big deal in and of itself, but it's not an isolated event. White students in Peru will be reminded of their privilege.

Mistura 089

Tourist zone: awkward

Reading over this, it's quite a mixed review of Mistura. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and ate way too much. But for the sake of candor, I also offer my criticisms. In any case, Mistura is an amazing culinary panorama of Peru. A must see if you're in Lima in September.

P.S. more food photos are at



Mistura 008


eating your cake with a spoon

So, you are probably going to hear a little (well maybe A LOT) about food.  Let’s just say that Peruvians are proud of their gastronomical accomplishments.  In fact, I have heard several Peruvians express their support of Gastón Acurio (a famous Peruvian chef) running as a presidential candidate. 

I’m of the opinion that Peruvian food is some of the best food I have ever tasted.  If you, like me, are accustomed to fast food, Ramen noodles, and boxed brownie mixes, you are in for a treat.  I will try to refrain from giving you a huge list of typical dishes, because you probably won’t remember any of them when you get there….but, here are some pictures just to spark your appetite. 

Beth-top1 Beth-top2




Beth-top5  Chifa – Chinese food in Perú

 Some random things that may be useful to know:

1.       They eat rice and potatoes with almost every meal (but they have something like 3,000 different species of potatoes in Perú, so you won’t get too bored)


2.       Cake is always eaten with a little spoon, and never a fork 


3.       They eat cereal with yogurt instead of milk


4.       You don’t get to serve yourself, but rather people will serve you…..LARGE portions.  Yes, it’s important to eat everything, but don’t worry too much about it.  Your families will understand.


5.       Salad, on the other hand, each person serves themselves.  (There was one time that I ate the whole family’s salad because I thought that the huge bowl they put in front of me was my portion…..ooops)     


6.       A lot of fruit sellers at the markets give free samples and Peruvian fruit is WONDERFUL.  And, if you’re lucky like I was, your host mom will make you fresh fruit juice (it’s practically a smoothie) every morning


So my cheesy advice for you?  Just keep an open mind.  You may be served a few things that seem a little strange to us (I mean, they fight over who gets the chicken foot in their bowl of soup and anticuchos are beef heart), but you might be amazed.  And it’s not like you will be eating chicken feet or beef heart every day.  Most days it is the same kinds of things we eat here, just with a little different flavoring……and maybe bigger portions.



I’m jealous, because I’m pretty sure that for the next 4+ months, you’ll be eating better than I will.

Beth- with sobrinos

My host sobrinitos and I

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