Guinea Pig and the Peruvian Approach to Food

Peru is famous for cuy, which Americans call guinea pig.  At the high altitudes in the mountains large animals can be difficult to maintain, so guinea pigs fill diets with protein.  The first question any good Peruvian asks a foreigner is “Have you tried cuy?”  I didn’t think my trip to Peru would be complete without eating this famous dish, so I communicated to my family that I wanted to try it.  One day, I came home from work to find a full guinea pig on my plate.  I must say, cuy does not taste like chicken.  The flavor is difficult to describe, although perhaps the even more interesting part was prying meat off the bones of a guinea pig; that is not a behavior I was accustomed to.  I did enjoy it, although there are other foods whose flavor I prefer.  I have also had the privilege of visiting guinea pig farms, which is a stark contrast to the cute cages for our pets in the United States.

Peruvian Guinea Pigs

Peruvian Guinea Pigs

Overall, the food in Peru has been fantastic.  Breakfast consists of eggs, white rice, occasionally vegetables like avocado and tomato, and fresh bread from a local oven.  This bread is made in round, individual pieces instead of loaves.  The mountainous region of Peru is known for its soups, and almost every lunch begins with one of these delicious dishes.  Lunch will also have rice or potatoes and some type of meat.  Dinner is often a repeat of lunch, since it tends to be a smaller meal that is warmed up individually.  My taste buds have yet to be disappointed by a Peruvian meal.

The largest meal in Peru is lunch.  Accordingly, almost all working people go home from 1 to 3 PM every day.  Everyone eats lunch together.  This is the primary time to meet each other and reminisce about the day.  Because of this long lunch break, many Peruvians don’t return home until 8 or 9 at night.  In the US, lunch is typically more of an individual affair.  Dinner is our primary meal, and working people almost always eat lunch apart from family.  We often will eat dinner as a family around 6 or 7 in the evening, when Peruvians would still be working.  Our structure is probably a reflection of the mobility of our society.  Since we often hold jobs very far from home, it could be both difficult and expensive for us to transport ourselves home and back twice a day.  The Peruvian work structure is different, since jobs are almost always geographically close to home.  A break in the middle of the day is not a major inconvenience for them, and I know they value time with family between stressful times at work.  Overall, the Peruvian system is different, but I am seeing how it is very consistent with the values of Peruvian culture.

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Filed under Michael in Peru, south america

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