Gastronomie, Kolumnen

Berries and Spice in Peru – Part 2 – Guinea Pig 

von Ioana Negulescu

Foto: Ioana Negulescu

It is the first of January. 6:25 a.m., to be exact and I am wide awake. Not because I stayed awake as I normally do for New Year’s, but because I was so dead tired the previous night that I couldn’t care less about New Year’s. I am motivated to go out and discover Arequipa (my first stop between Lima and Cusco).
“Hola, feliz año nuevo, do you know, are things open today?”, I say, fresh and ready to go.
“Feliz año nuevo”, replies the receptionist, stifling a yawn “hmmm, I don’t know.”
“Is Mercado San Camilo open?”, I persist.
“The market should be open, but don’t go there now”.
“Why not?”, I enquire.
“There was a fiesta last night, miss. There will be lots of drunk people everywhere.”
I check my watch. It’s 7 a.m..
Back in my room, I try to stretch time and carefully iron my patience. I update my Instagram, I message my friends and stare wistfully at the white walls of my room. All I want to do right now is be at the market and eat my way through the day. This is how far my naïveté has gone, to think that anyone would casually serve food at 7 a.m. on the first of January…
Finally, I leave the hotel. The city is deserted. I am wearing a bright pink shirt with lemons, pink lipstick, together with my nine hours of sleep. I arrive at the market. At the market, only a few stalls are open: one selling raw meat, another offering chicha de jora (a fermented corn “beer”), a vegetable stand, and a few ladies selling plants and infusions for shamanic purposes. I approach the latter, asking questions that should have been accompanied by a cup of coffee. No one is eager to chat with an overly enthusiastic tourist.

Fotos: Ioana Negulescu

Disappointed, I head back to my hotel, only to remember my mission: food.
Following locals’ advice, I decide to visit a highly recommended eatery. I order a chicha de jora (finally) and look for the cuy (guinea pig) in the menu. I find it. I order it. Together with some fried yuca. Of course, a double portion of salsa picante followed. Alea iacta ist.
The chicha de jora arrives, its pinkish colour semi-matching my shirt. Then comes the guinea pig, butterflied and deep-fried, with only the liver left intact. The sight of the animal’s teeth and nails is jarring. Accustomed to the European “hide it and make it instagramable” approach, this presentation is rougher than expected. The taste is mild, somewhere between chicken and pork, and quite fatty. I can’t help but think about the guinea pigs I had as pets, which I gave away after realising I wasn’t an animal person (the process took two weeks, in case you were wondering).

Foto: Ioana Negulescu

Later, I read that butterflied and deep fried is one of the most authentic ways of cooking guinea pig in Peru and that this technique is slowly fading away with the rise of European and North American tourists.

I most certainly left a big piece of my heart in Peru. Reflecting on what I did each day before going to sleep led to one conclusion: every day was magical, in its own way. I’m excited to tell you more about this journey, so stick around, more stories to follow.