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Cuy: Peru’s Celebration Food

By on Apr 11, 2012 in Travel | 4 comments

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It’s the second Wednesday of April, which means it is time once again to join the Travel Belles Across the Cafe Table! This month, we’re discussing the weirdest food we’ve eaten on our travels. I can’t wait to read about what other intrepid foodies have dared to eat!

 

To put this into context, I am normally a vegetarian. However, when I arrived at the Delgados’ home in the small, Andean town of Huaraz, Peru, I decided to forgo my principles. Vegetarianism is not exactly a familiar concept in these parts and the family were so generous in sharing their homecooked meals with us volunteers that I just couldn’t refuse. In general, the meals were delicious casseroles or stews served with rice or potatoe, without too much meat.

Andes, Peru

Huaraz, Peru

In the garden, four guinea-pigs lived happily in a roomy hutch. They were well-fed, petted often by the youngest child and seemed for all the world like family pets. However, one day, I got home from the school where I was teaching and went into the kitchen to make myself a drink. There, on the counter, was a metal bowl, in which two headless, skinned, guinea-pig carcasses were marinating. I knew that guinea-pig - cuy –  was a delicacy here, having seen it advertised on numerous menus, but to see them like this was a bit of a shock. A horrible thought struck me and I went out to the garden. Sure enough, two of the guinea pigs were gone.

It was the son’s 11th birthday and that night we sat down to the special, celebratory meal of cuy. It was well cooked and browned, but the piece on my plate still had a leg and claws attached. The four of us volunteers exchanged nervous glances, but the family, recognising our foreign worry for their national dish, cajoled and encouraged us into trying it. So, I tasted my first mouthful of guinea pig. It actually tasted ok, quite a rich meat, but I don’t think any of us were able to seperate the meat from our furry little friends who had been happily playing in the hutch earlier that morning. I ate a little more, but then apologised to the family and gave the rest of my guinea-pig to one of them.

cuy

Photo by Phil Whitehose, available via Creative Commons

The next morning, as I was getting ready for work, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to find a woman with two cages, full of squeaking, writhing, furballs. She asked if I wanted any. I called for one of the Delgados, completely taken aback. As if this was a perfectly ordinary occurrance – which I suppose it was – two new guinea pigs were selected and the transaction completed. Once again, the family cage was back to full capacity of four inhabitants. At least until the next birthday, that is.

You can join the discussion and see the other weird things the Belles have eaten  here.

4 Comments

  1. Margo

    12 April 2012

    Post a Reply

    Oh good heavens, I don’t know if I would ever recover. Double duty pets and birthday dinner? Woah. (after today’s discussion, I’m seriously thinking about becoming a vegetarian ;)

    • Katy Stewart

      12 April 2012

      Post a Reply

      It wasn’t the nicest moment of my life and certainly reinforced my vegetarianism in general!

  2. Krista

    12 April 2012

    Post a Reply

    Ohhhh, I STILL shiver when I think of you facing this, Katy!!! Yipes! I think you were incredibly, INCREDIBLY brave to try it. :-)

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