First of all I had a mild couple of street food experiences. I am a sidewalk foodgawker and if I could be hungry all the time, I would try it all. Unfortunately, they are overfeeding me here and I rarely walk through the streets hungry. One time I had to leave my house before my host mom woke up so I ate breakfast on the street! Quinua con leche de soya and an avocado sandwich con sal, 2 soles (or .78 cents). It was yummy. Another time I wanted a snack so I bought habas, huge beans that are fried and salted and sold in bags at ever snack vendor’s stand for 1 sol. Also, I buy fruit on the street because it is all over the place and ALWAYS so tasty. Most often it is HUGE mangoes for about 3 soles ($1.17).
Although I would like to eat more street food, most of my companions would prefer to not put their digestive tract at risk so I often eat lunch in little restaurants. The design of lunchtime restaurants here is very appealing to me. They all offer “el Menú” for between 5 and 10 soles ($1.93-3.80 — if you are being baffled by theses prices don’t worry, I am too. I am saving a lot of money because on a day to day basis I think of soles the same way I think of American dollars and I would never want to spend more than 10 dollars on a meal). The menú includes a refresco of juice, 3-4 choices for an entrada, and 4-6 choices for el segundo. I always leave full. Some wonderful combos I have enjoyed are ensalada con palta y lomo saltado (a stir fry of onion, potato, peppers, tomatoes, and beef), sopa de la pancha (vegetable soup) y habas con arroz (bean stew with rice), y papas a la huayacaína y arroz a la cubana (rice topped with 2 fried eggs and surrounded by fried plantains). I have yet to be disappointed. I would love to see this style of restaurant more in the US – a simplified menu and that is healthy and affordable and always changing (the selection is written on a white board that is at the entrance of the restaurant). Another thing I love- they always always always put their rice in a mold before serving it, usually this mold is just round like a dome but I have also seed pyramid and cylinder variations. It is so much nicer looking than just slopping it on the plate. It seems like Peruvians have mealtime pretty figured out.
Next up- travelling and food autonomy. I sometimes feel the burden of being polite and eating what I am served, I often wish I had free range in a kitchen with all of the wonderful Peruvian ingredients (my host mom is easing into the idea of me helping out in the kitchen), but also I am grateful (some days more than others) for the ability to think less about food shopping and cooking and enjoy what others have prepared for me. I like independence and control when it comes to food so this shift has been achallenge. One particularly uncomfortable but delicious experience was when I went to a friends house for a party (which I thought was a karaoke party) at 9:30 pm having already eaten dinner and then I found out it was a dinner party. They insisted that I eat so I politely consumed dinner number two. It was one of the best meals I have had here — pachamanca — I left the party with a full stomach, improved cumbia dancing skills, and no regrets (in the words of Anthony Harb YOPO (you only PERU once)).
Moving on from food, all is well here. Today we had a traditional Peruvian music and dance class – I played ancient flutes and shakers and tried to keep my 1-2 steps in rhythm (sometimes even while spinning). On Saturday, we went to Caral, a 5000 year old city (the oldest City in the Americas). It was refreshing to leave Lima, even if only for a day. The landscape was amazing- huge desert mountains surrounded a lush river valley where a small village subsists on its agriculture, growing palta, maiz, durazno, papas, ahi, y platanos. I wanted to jump out of the bus and spend a day with the villagers in the field. On the way home we stopped at a beach and took a refreshing sunset dip. A lovely day. Its not always food and fun times, I am learning too! Like our program director José says, its all about “la experiencia.” My Spanish is improving and I am taking classes on Peruvian history and politics.
Lovely Sonja and I made Pisco Sour cupcakes for Marcos’ birthday fiesta. My mom helped (as in she sort of controlled everything we did). She is a pro though, she used to sell cakes at panaderias in Lima. She taught me to sift 3 times and always add the flour last. I could taste the difference. These were so good. so [cupcake fotos courtesy of Sonja, food-foto-taker-and-extraordinaire]
A small dose of street food.
The ruins of Caral, a multi-colored sweet potato, Tato’s famous “Tacu Tacu Relleno de Mariscos, and a beach sunset photo that just happens to be tori yellow (I love that color).
My mom at the food cart that comes by our house in the morning and the dried fruit and nut stand that I bought supplies for the granola I am fixing to make (stay tuned).