paid work recently swept me far far afield from the radical muffin kitchen: to the mountains of Peru, green and vital, carved with art in places, terraced over generations.
birthplace of more than 4,000 varieties of potatoes. A biodiversity & spectrum of taste endangered in part by fast food empires’ demand for fry fodder Idaho potatoes.
and protected by locals. Earlier this year, Quechua farmers sent seeds of 1,500 potato varieties to a ‘seed vault’, an organization working with indigenous communities to gather both seeds and knowledge on the humble and critical potato.
no fries for me! instead i ate all kinds of potatoes creamed into soups or swimming with their ancient, perfect sisters—corn, beans, quinoa—in verdant herbed broths.
0r pumpkin sopa of velvety orange. A bowl of profound sustenance when you’ve come through the heavy old old doors from the evening air settling cold on the square. the lights of homes spreading outward and upward towards the stars. and the giant light up jesus.
in addition to the pageantry and politics of religion, the local peoples live with herbal and nutritional wisdom like relief from the altitude affects with mate de coca, coca leaf tea. Cooking magics like cebiche (citrus cooked seafood), spit fermented drinks and head-spinning hallucinogenics. Admittedly, I was no wilder than a few pisco sours, a muscat grape liquor served topped with shining frothed egg whites and freckles of cinnamon. That nudge of spicy scent opens the way for a clean little bite that delivers more booze than anticipated. Or maybe the altitude enabled a serious whallop from a small glass (not enough coca tea!).
on the last evening, after the longest trek, I had that same sense of a meal perfectly tuned to place and my own fatigue when I sat down to a cold bottle of the local beer, Cusqueña and a heaping plate of spicy Indian food. At Maikhana Indian Coffee House on Av El Sol, off the main plaza in Cuzco, 15 soles (about $5.50) will buy all access to a buffet of veggie, chicken and lamb dishes with rice and mineral water. Plus a sideboard of delightful condiments like a ginger-coconut slurry, coriander chutney and plain crescents of cucumber. Not to mention Wi-fi and an international phone call. Perhaps that call is not standard, but Thrifty Wanderlust will let us know in a post about her adventures in Cuzco soon!!! Breads and beer are cheap add-ons. Also looked like they had plenty of wine, in a glass doored case dotted all over with colorful stickers at the heights of little kids’ fingers.
finally, no, I did not try cuy.
but the garblogger at Everyday Trash did!!! Folks serve up guinea pig in restaurants and keep them at home in fuzzy herds for special suppers. This one came out whole with a tomato tiara on her long toothed head. Word is it tasted mostly of fried. The stuffed pepper side, however, was reportedly most excellent.