Thursday, November 25, 2010

Peruvian Thanksgiving

We started the day by visiting the outdoor market at Villa El Salvador to purchase decorations for the turkey dinner at Los Martincitos daycare center for the elderly. They wouldn’t let us take cameras since our being there at all made our local hosts very nervous. They say it is no place for gringos. The market is filled with an amazing array of meats, fish, vegetables and produce and it made me crazy that I couldn’t take any pictures.

Table centerpiece

Passion fruit for juice
We returned with colored paper and vegetables to decorate the tables for the non-Peruvian feast. They can re-purpose the food items into tomorrow's meal so that it doesn't go to waste. After decorating, I scalded my fingers scooping the pulp out of a type of passion fruit that needs to be cooked before it is made into juice. I guess passion fruit juice goes with turkey!

Tonight the cooks at our volunteer house served us a version of Thanksgiving dinner. Luisa made us excellent turkey, mashed Peruvian potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes and homemade applesauce. Since I wasn’t expecting any Thanksgiving dinner at all, I didn’t mind that cranberry sauce and pumpkin are next to impossible to find in Peru. The pumpkin in the table decoration came from a secret location, not the market.

Larry with Luisa, our cook

Our time here is almost over and I am very thankful for the opportunity to vacation in Peru, especially the highlands, and then spend the last 10 days volunteering in Lima in a wonderful program providing good food and a lot of love to indigent and lonely elderly people who are abandoned or abused by their families. I have a lot to be thankful for!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Lake Titikaka Lunch

This post is going to be mostly photos of the best meal we’ve had so far in Peru. We took a three hour boat ride from Puno to Isla de Taquile in Lake Titikaka to see the local handicrafts and have lunch. We stopped halfway up the 500 step climb to the top (13,000 ft) to lunch on a small outdoor patio.

Traditional Peruvian bread

Best Quinoa soup ever!

Omlette with salsa and fries

All this was prepared for 28 people by a lovely 16 year old girl in this kitchen:

I am almost caught up on writing about our travels. You can read more about our vacation and and volunteer experiences on my Peru blog.

Chinchero Market

On Sundays, all the local residents and a few tourists gather at the Chinchero market in the Andes to buy, sell and trade. One section has indigenous craft items for the tourists, another section has household and clothing items and the middle section has all the local produce, herbs and flowers where residents do their weekly shopping, You can also purchase local food specialties such as flour, bread and pastries.

This market is like stepping back a couple of centuries. There is no refrigeration or electricity and most of the local residents barter, rather than purchase. There is a large variety of produce of excellent quality. It was a beautiful, warm afternoon and we enjoyed purusing the selections and watching both the local Andean people and the other tourists.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Traditional Andean Lunch

Thursday we visited a weavers’ cooperative at Amaru, at over 11,000 feet in the Andes. These delightful, friendly people invited us for lunch. They dumped bags of dried large kernel corn, fava beans and multiple varieties of potatoes onto a cloth on the ground. There was a bowl of dipping sauce made of ground fava beans and spices. They also passed around quinoa soup and chicha, their fermented corn drink. I opted out of the communal dishes since I had been sick, but the dried vegetables were pretty good. Not sure I’d want to eat it every day like they do, though.

At a later stop, they were serving chicha morada, a soft drink made from purple corn. I’ve had this before and don’t care for it too much. I do like the color, if not the taste.

I was still on a very light diet and ordered chicken soup for dinner in the hotel restaurant. Talk about a translation error- they brought me three scoops of ice cream!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What Happened Here?

                                         Scallops in a Parmesan Crust -Was it This?

                         Aji de Gallina (chicken and potatoes in spicy cream sauce) - Was it this?

Crema Quemada de Coca (Coca leaf creme brulee) -I sure hope not, because this was divine.

What gave me such violent food poisoning? Your guess is as good as mine. It could have been these or anything else I ate in the previous day, but it came on fast and furious. So not much to report from yesterday since I had nothing but water. Except for the mashed potatoes I decided to try after 24 hours of fasting. Aren’t they beautiful?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Peruvian SURPRISE potatoes and piramide

We were so tired tonight we decided just to dine at our hotel. It was billed as an Italian restaurant, but it definitely had a Peruvian twist. I ordered an appetizer, Trio de Causas, three types of potatoes with scallops and huacaina sauce, octopus with olive oil mayonnaise and shrimp with pesto sauce. Upon arrival....... SURPRISE!!!! It was cold! I was certainly expecting hot, based on the description. Who eats cold mashed potatoes? Apparently Peruvians.

After our meal, the chef came to our table and asked if we spoke Spanish, French, English or Italian so he could discuss our meal. How embarrassing that we only speak English. He explained that he studied in Italy (among other places) and tries to combine his Peruvian heritage with Italian dishes. Peruvians eat mashed potatoes cold as an appetizer, rather than as a hot side dish as we do in the US. This appetizer was his concoction of Peruvian and Italian. I found it very interesting and different. Larry’s minestrone soup also had a Peruvian twist by having tender, tasty pork and his gnocchi entree was topped with the huacaina sauce which is a traditional Peruvian cheese sauce with a very mild chili.

We discovered more uses for lucuma today, as we had been advised to do. We lunched at a large busy deli and bakery that also served gelato. I could actually read most of the menu from my knowledge of Portuguese menus.  I tried the lucuma gelato and another traveller had one of the fabulous pastries, a piramide de lucuma con chocolate (right). I didn’t try it, but he said it was delicious. I liked the gelato, but it wasn’t as flavorful as yesterday’s pudding.

We head to Cuzco tomorrow morning. More dining adventures lie ahead.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Chorillos Fish Market and More

Did I tell you I was going to Peru? It was a bit of an ordeal getting here, but we made it. One of our first stops was the Chorillos Fish Market in Lima. This section of the city is well-known for its artisan fishermen. These businesses are family run from start to finish. They build their boats, make the nets, catch the fish and sell them in the little market. I have no clue as to the identity of most of the catch on display, but it looked beautiful and fresh with some of it still wiggling.

We had lunch at the Larco Museum. It was all quite good, but the most unique course was the dessert. Some sort of pudding that we couldn’t identify. It tasted a little like butterscotch with some maple flavoring, but had a starchy consistency, like potato. Outside, our guide pointed out a tree, bearing lucuma fruit, the main ingredient of our pudding. It is a semi-tropical fruit native to the highlands of Peru. He said we must be sure to try the lucuma ice cream as well.

I have created a separate blog to capture our travel activities on this three week trip in Peru. The first half is touring with a group, the second half is volunteering. There’s not much there yet, but if you’re interested, you can follow us at Hopefully, I’ll update it after I’ve had some sleep!