from Peru

adiós, Cusco

I can’t believe it; my eleven weeks are up! It seems like just the other day I was taking in the dizzying array of colorful houses and the glorious splendor of the Andes for the first time as I rode from the airport to my Cusqueñan home with my host mother. I surely have enjoyed being here in Cusco, learning Spanish, meeting interesting people from around the world, and eating amazing food, but I am definitely ready to go home.

Every student gives a speech during the break on their last Friday at school. Here is mine:

No sé porque, pero cuando pensaba en Perú y Cusco antes de venir aquí, imaginaba una ciudad un poco sucio y con comida abburida y desagradable o aún fea – con muchos frijoles. Estaba increiblemente incorrecta. Con la excepción del aire en las calles, Cusco es mucha más limpia que expecté, y, más importantemente, la comida es incredible! Si hubiera sabido cuán rica y deliciosa es la comida (especialmente la comida que se puede comprar en las panderias y pastelerias), habría estado a dieta por meses y meses antes de venir.

Hablando de comida hecha por harina y azucar, tengo que confesar algo que probablemente cada persona ya sepa: soy una pan-adicta . . . y, tambien, una pastel-adicta . . . y, además, una empanada-adicta. He probado, en solamente once semanas, todos los tipos de panes, pastels, y tortas allá en el restaurante Meli Melo. Y, por supuesto, yo sacaba fotos de cada uno, aunque todo el mundo me reía.

Estoy dispuesta a compartir mis fotos de comida con ustedes, mis compañeros de la escuela, poreque estoy segura que ustedes van a regresar a sus países y van a mostrar sus fotos de sus viajes a sus amigos. Seguramente, sus amigos van a preguntarles, “Que comiste en Perú? Queremos ver la comida del Perú!” Y, ustedes tendrán que decir, “Oh. Olvidé a sacar fotos de la comida.” Entonces, así que es obvio que este va a ocurrir y para que ustedes puedan evitar ese destino horiblemente avergonzado, les ofrezco mis fotos ahora. Tienen que elegir su destino!

Bueno, quiero decir algunas gracias:

Primeramente, porque vení aquí para aprender más español, gracias a mis profesores numerosos: Alberto, Albertito, José, Erwin, Rebeca, Wilfredo, Evelyn, Luz y Yusey. He disfrutado mi tiempo de aprender con ustedes y me alegra que, en teoría ahora yo sepa todos los tiempos de verbos y algunas cosas de la gramatica y puntuación, aunque siempre los olvido cuando hablo. Espero que ustedes todos ahora comprendan y sepan más de el homeschooling, ya que lo explicaba a cada profesor, creo. 

Quiero decir una gracias especial a los profesores que me dieron recomendaciones muy útiles:

Gracias a Luz por su recomendación de helado de lúcuma. Lo probe y me lo gusto mil veces más que la fruta.

Gracias a Yusey para su receta de la bebida de leche evaporada con coca cola. Cada persona aquí debe probar esta combinación; es extraña y deliciosa.

Y, gracias a Erwin por su recomendación del libro El Principito, que era el primer libre que había leido en Español sin saber el argumento antes de leerlo.

Tengo muchas más varias gracias para decir.

Gracias a Evelyn de la oficina por recomendarme el restaurante Meli Melo una de mis primeras noches aquí.

Gracias a Meli Melo por la major comida de todos los restaurantes en Cusco.

Gracias a mi madre cusqueña, Adela, por abrir su cas a mi, por la conversación, y por la comida, nada de que no me gusto, y especialmente por la mazamorra morada y las maracuyas.

Gracias al libro Lonely Planet Peru, cuyas recomendaciones aseguraba que siempre econtraba buena comida.

Gracias a todos los estudiantes de la escuela. Ustedes hicieron mi tiempo aquí muy divertido y interesante.Una gracias enorme a mis mejores amigos de la escuela – Joe, Erik, Matt de Inglaterra, Simon y Emil de Dinamarca, y Anna de Alemania – por muchas conversaciones interesantes y graciosas, montones de risa, miles de juegos de Capitalismo, y muchas cenas de comida chifa. He disfrutado MUCHISIMO su compañia y por siempre voy a recordar y contar a otras personas mis memorias divertidas de mi tiempo con ustedes.

Gracias a todos los estudiantes de la escuela. Ustedes hicieron mi tiempo aquí muy divertido y interesante.

Una gracias enorme a mis mejores amigos de la escuela – Joe, Erik, Matt de Inglaterra, Simon y Emil de Dinamarca, y Anna de Alemania – por muchas conversaciones interesantes y graciosas, montones de risa, miles de juegos de Capitalismo, y muchas cenas de comida chifa. He disfrutado MUCHISIMO su compañia y por siempre voy a recordar y contar a otras personas mis memorias divertidas de mi tiempo con ustedes.

Y, finalmente, y lo más importante: gracias a mis padres y a Dios por la oportunidad de venir aquí.
Esto es todo mis gracias.

Espero que nos reunamos un día en el futuro. Voy a recomendar Cusco y Perú en general a todos mis amigos, bien, a todas las personas que conozco que les gusta comer.

Es todo, excepto que tengo que decir, aconsejar, mandar que ustedes prueben la torta muss de maracuya en Meli Melo antes de que se mueran o salgan de Cusco.

Es todo. Gracias!


Here’s the translation:

I don’t know why, but when I thought about Peru and Cusco before coming here, I imagined a slightly dirty city with boring and disagreeable, even disgusting, food – with lots of beans. I was incredibly wrong. With the exception of the air in the streets, Cusco is much more clean than I expected and, more importantly, the food is incredible! If I had known how rich and delicious the food is (especially the food you can buy in bakeries and pastry and cake shops), I would have gone on a diet for months and months before coming.

Speaking of food made of flour and sugar, I have to confess something that everyone probably already knows: I am a breadaholic . . . and, also, a cakeaholic . . . and, furthermore, an empanadaholic. In only eleven weeks I have tried every kind of bread, pastry, and cake over there in the café Meli Melo. And, of course, I took a pictures of every one, even though the whole world laughed at me.
I am willing to share my food pictures with you guys, my school companions, because I am sure that you are going to return to your countries and show your pictures of your travels to your friends. Assuredly, they are going to ask you, “What did you eat in Peru? We want to see what Peruvian food looks like!” And, you will have to say, “Oh. I forgot to take pictures of the food.” So, since it is obvious that this is going to happen and so that you can avoid this horribly embarrassing situation, I now offer you my food pictures. You must choose your destiny!

Okay! I have various thanks to say.

Firstly, since I came here to learn more Spanish, thank you to my numerous teachers: Alberto, Albertito, Jose, Erwin, Rebeca, Wilfredo, Evelyn, Luz, and Yusey. I enjoyed my time learning with you guys, and I am please that, in theory, I now know all the verb tenses and various grammar and punctuation things, even though I always forget everything when I speak. I hope you all now understand and know more about homeschooling since I explained it to every single teacher, I think.

I would like to specially thank the teachers that gave me some useful recommendations.

Thanks to Luz for her recommendation of lúcuma ice cream. I tried it and liked it a thousand times better than the fruit.

Thanks to Yusey for her recipe of the evaporated milk and coca cola drink. Everyone here should try this combination; it is strange and delicious.

And, thanks to Erwin for his recommendation of the book The Little Prince, which was the first book I had read in Spanish without knowing the plot beforehand.

I have many more various thank yous to say.

Thanks to Evelyn of the office for recommending me the café Meli Melo on one of my first nights here.

Thanks to Meli Melo for the best food of all of the restaurants in Cusco.

Thanks to my Cusqueñan mother, Adela, for opening her house to me, for the conversation, and for the food, none of which I didn’t like, and especially for the purple corn jello and maracuyas.

Thanks to the book Lonely Planet Peru, whose recommendations made sure that I always found good food.

Thanks to all of the other students here at the school. You guys made my time here very fun and interesting.

An enormous thank you to my best friends from school here – Joe, Erik, Matt from England, Simon and Emil from Denmark, and Anna from Germany – for many interesting and funny conversations, lots of laughter, thousands of games of Capitalism, and many suppers of Peruvian Chinese food. I have really, really enjoyed your company and I will always remember and tell stories of my fun memories of my time with you.

And, finally, and most importantly: thank you to my parents and to God for the opportunity to come here!

That is all of my thank yous.

I hope we will meet again some day in the future. I will recommend Cusco and Peru in general to all of my friends, okay, to all of the people I know who like to eat.

That is all except I have to say, suggest, command that you guys should all try the maracuya mousse cake at Meli Melo before you die or leave Cusco.

That’s all! Thanks!

 

[Sorry about the weird spacing. I’m not sure what the issue is.]

More or less ready to go home! My suitcase does zip, believe it or not.

Cusco: a study in food – exotic fruits

Well, when I went through my “Cusco, Peru” picture folder to select the photos for this post, I discovered I have tried 11 strange fruits. That is a lot more than I had expected. This is going to be one lengthy post.

The maracuya is on the left.


Name: maracuya
Appearance: The outside is of the slightly less than baseball-sized, bright yellow sphere is either tough and smooth but pliable (a very, very overripe apple comes closest to the feel) or wrinkled, hard, and fracturable, depending on how long it has sat around. Inside are little black seeds, each encased in a juicy, delicate, light orangy-yellow membrane.
Taste: For those of you who have been fortunate enough to try a passion fruit at some point: the flavor of a maracuya is like a passion fruit minus most – but not all – of the sweetness and plus a bit more tartness. For my brothers and parents: it is the same as a matunda, I am nearly certain. For the rest of you people: just about all I can manage to tell you is that it is sour; sorry.
Texture: Although you could swallow the maracuya innards (that word sounds gross, but the stuff inside does not qualify as flesh) without chewing, that would be no fun. The little black seeds have a lovely crunch that contrasts nicely with the somewhat slimy, slippery texture of the orangey, membranous part.
Consumption: Unless you are in possession of exceptionally strong and sharp fingernails, you have to use a knife to cut into the skin of the maracuya. After that, you can just rip open a hole at the top, spoon in some sugar if desired, and eat it with a spoon.
Notes: I drank a cup of maracuya juice and ginger tea at a restaurant here one time. As strange as that may sound to those of you who can somewhat imagine how it tastes, I really enjoyed it.
I had eaten this fruit previously in Uganda.
Opinion: I love it!

The tumbo is on the right.

Name: tumbo
Appearance: Like the maracuya, the tumbo is also bright yellow, but its yellow is warmer and sunnier than that of the maracuya. It is three or so inches long, about an inch wide, and oblong. Its skin is much softer than a maracuya and can be opened easily with fingernails of any size and strength. Inside, tumbos have the same black seeds as maracuyas, but they are surrounded by larger packets of brilliant orange juice; there is no extra slime floating around inside a tumbo like there is inside a maracuya.
Taste: Yet again, I have to refer to the taste of a passion fruit. The taste is like a passion fruit minus every last bit of sweetness and plus a fair amount of bitterness. ‘Tis quite unpleasant.
Texture: The texture is the same as a maracuya, only juicier and less slimy.
Consumption: Just open it up and eat the insides.
Notes: I only purchased a tumbo twice: once when I first tried it and again from a street vendor when I was feeling peckish one day. That second time it was so bitter that I took only one bite before tossing it away; it was that unbearable.
Opinion: I do not like it. Not a bit.



Name: granadilla
Appearance: On the outside a hard, orange shell protects the granadilla. It can be easily cracked and removed piece by piece, like a boiled egg’s shell, from the soft, white, edible pith-like thing that contains the seeds and pulp. Inside the white part, the juice and membranous stuff is a clear to very light grey color tinged with yellow.
Taste: The seeds and slime part taste like a very mild passion fruit with a lot of sugar. The white, pithy stuff has no real flavor, just like orange pith.
Texture: The texture of the seeds and juice is the same as that of a maracuya, but more juicy and liquid. The white part is soft, both to touch and bite, and chewy.
Consumption: Crack the orange shell and remove it, leaving the very bottom and top parts. Removing either the top or bottom part of the shell will tear a hole in the white pith. You can either eat the juice and seeds with a spoon, consume them with bites of the pith, or suck them out of the pithy part, leaving it behind.
Notes: I am reasonably certain that I heard once that the name of this fruit stems from the fact that they somewhat resemble grenades.
I had eaten this fruit previously in Guatemala.
Opinion: I love it!

Name: chirimoya
Appearance: The earthy green and brown fruits can be anywhere from fist sized to two or three times that. They are shaped like misshapen apples. Inside they are made up of little segments of white flesh, each containing a seed within.
Taste: The taste is very sweet but with a little bit of a tart aftertaste. Perhaps you could say they combine the flavor of a banana and a mild Granny Smith apple. Thinking of it makes me salivate. They are quite tasty.
Texture: The texture can vary from soft, a bit mealy, and mushy to fibrous and chewy, but regardless, it is always somewhat slippery.
Consumption: After pulling apart the soft skin, you eat the white insides, spitting out the black seed contained in each little parcel of flesh.
Notes: This fruit was very tasty in the form of ice cream.
Opinion: I really like it.


Name: masasamba
Appearance: They are a dark green, a warped oval sort of shape, and covered in slightly pointy bumps. Like the chirimoya, they vary greatly in size. Their insides are exactly the same as the chirimoya, only most of the segments of flesh are seedless.
Taste: Yet again, this fruit is really almost exactly the same as the chirimoya, though perhaps with a stronger tart aftertaste.
Texture: The texture is exactly the same as the chirimoya.
Consumption: You eat it the same way as the chirimoya, though you do not have to constantly spit out the black seeds because there are so few of them.
Notes: I spied a masasamba growing on a tree during the hiking part of my Machu Picchu trip and wondered what it was. So, as soon as I found one in the market, I snatched it up. As I made my purchase, the vendor lady informed me that masasambas are good to prevent or help cure cancer, or something to that effect. Later, when I asked my teacher to repeat the name so that I would know it for this post, she gave me the same information about its medicinal use. She also mentioned that they are available rather infrequently and only in my Mercado de Wanchaq.
Opinion: I really like it.


Name: lúcuma
Appearance: It looks like a pointy, strangely light greenish yellowish, smooth avocado.
Taste: It was bad. Really, REALLY bad. I can not think of a way to describe it, but it was very pungent and made me feel a bit nauseous every time I caught the occasional whiff it wafting out of the trash can, where I had attempted to quarantine the odor by encasing the fruit in two plastic bags.
Texture: Though I cannot justly claim that I closely inspected or experienced the texture of the lúcuma, – I only took two nibbles, both of which I regretted immensely – the feel of the tiny bits of flesh I did manage to choke down was something between a very starchy sweet potato and an avocado.
Consumption: For the sake of avoiding the unpleasant sensation of nausea, one should not ingest or even nibble at lúcumas except under extreme duress, perhaps during a hostage situation. I am serious. Of course, in order to be prepared for every possible contingency of life, if one was indeed forced to consume a lúcuma, one open and eat it like an avocado.
Notes: Although lúcumas are apparently eaten by themselves (how that is humanly possible is beyond my comprehension), they are more frequently incorporated into sweet desserts like ice cream. I did in fact sample some lúcuma ice cream, which tasted nothing like the fruit but was strangely starchy tasting, as impossible as that may sound for ice cream.
Opinion: I loathe it with every fibre of my being, especially with my tongue, nose, and stomach.


Name: membrillo
Appearance: It looks like a bright yellow apple covered in light brown lint, plus a protrusion where the stem should be and the remnants of a flower where there never is one on the bottom of an apple.
Taste: Take the cottony, starchy, horrible taste of unripe bananas and persimmons and increase it exponentially. Add some sourness. That is it.
Texture: The texture of a membrillo is like a dense, mealy apple.
Consumption: If you really must, eat it like an apple, after washing off the lint-like fuzz, of course.
Notes: It turns out that this fruit is not meant to just be eaten plain and raw unless it has sat around long enough for its skin to turn black. It is normally used to make jelly, using mass quantities of sugar, of course.
Opinion: I do not like it. Not one bit.


Name: pepino
Appearance: It looks like a peachy-colored, dull tomato with random purple stripes.
Taste: It tastes like a mix of a peach, a cantaloupe, and a honeydew melon with a bit of cucumber thrown in.
Texture: It is like a under ripe and hard yet juicy melon with skin the same texture and thickness as that of a tomato.
Consumption: Eat it like a peach, leaving the porous and strangely soft pit behind.
Notes: Normally, the word “pepino” means “cucumber,” but that is not true here in Peru.
Opinion: It is okay.


Name: tuna
Appearance: The color of a tuna can be anywhere from yellow to green to light red. Other than that, it looks like the cactus fruit that it is.
Taste: It is sweet in a very natural way, not like sugar. It is a sweet that makes me think of the color green. I have no idea why.
Texture: The texture is somewhat like the firm part of an overripe tomato without the skin.
Consumption: Slice off the bottom and top of the fruit and make a vertical cut down the fruit. The surprisingly thick skin can then easily be pealed off. Eat the insides, though not in overly large bites, lest you end up with an unmanageable quantity of the tiny, inedible seeds in your mouth.
Notes: This fruit was a pain to eat. I ended up spitting out a lot of flesh with the dozens and dozens of tiny, inedible seeds. It was neither comfortable to try to swallow the juice and flesh without consuming a mouthful of seeds, nor was it economical to waste so much juice and pulp with the discarded seeds.
Opinion: I like it.


Name: pacay
Appearance: It looks like a giant seedpod. Coincidentally, it is a giant seedpod.
Taste: After much pondering, I decided that the best way to describe the taste of these seeds is to say that they taste like sugar cane, only much, much less sweet. But, the point is that the sweetness is that purely natural, sort of green sweetness. Really, though, that is a very inadequate description, because they were not half as pleasant to eat as sugar cane. I could chew on sugar can for hours and hours, while I did not even finish half of the pod full of seeds.
Texture: When you first put one of the seeds in your mouth, it feels like a solid mass of compacted fuzz or tiny fibers. Within a few seconds it turns slimy and slippery, and then once you have removed the white part from the inner seed, it is chewy.
Consumption: After opening the thick, tough pod – a task that took me a few minutes of struggling with the aide of my rather dull Leatherman knife – you remove one of the seeds and pop it in your mouth. With several seconds of sucking on it and worrying it with your teeth, the edible white part slips off the inner, black, inedible seed, which you spit out.
Notes: One of my teachers had described the pacay to me a couple of weeks before I purchased one, but she had simultaneously informed me that they are not in season until June or July. Therefore, I was very pleasantly surprised to spot a wheelbarrowful of them, which I immediately recognized from my teacher’s excellent description, while being driven through Cusco on the tour last Tuesday. I felt quite pleased with myself when I acquired one the next day.
Opinion: It is okay.


Name: manzana de Israel
Appearance: This is a relatively small apple. It looks like someone took a gala apple and squeezed it in the middle, making it oblong.
Taste: I love the flavor of this apple! It was nearly as good as a fuji apple.
Texture: Yet again, the manzana de Israel resembled the fuji apple: it had a very nice, crisp texture and made the proper crunching sound an apple should make when bit into.
Consumption: I ate it like any normal person would eat a normal apple, though I did wash it in tap water, wipe it with a handsanitizer wipe, and rinse it in clean water beforehand.
Notes: I included this fruit – a humble apple, of all things – in the exoctic fruits category for two reasons: (1) I thought it was strange enough to qualify as exotic, and (2) I never got around to trying all the different types of apples here but wanted to include the one I did eat.
I wish we had these apples at home.
Opinion: I like it.

I did not include some fruits in this post because (1) I have eaten so many of them, and/or (2) I see them frequently enough in US grocery stores to guess that you know what they are and how they taste. Those fruits are as follows: mango, fig, star fruit, and kiwi. If you happen to have never tried one of those, I insist you immediately locate the nearest grocery store likely to carry semi-exotic fruits, purchase, and consume said fruit. Do it. Now.

Salinas and Moray

On Saturday I took my other tour. We visited the salt evaporation pools of Salinas and the really neat circular terracing ruins of Moray. Other than leaving 40 minutes late, returning 1 1/2 hours late, and having to listen to a semi-bilingual (I say “semi” because the lady’s English did not quite qualify as an entire language; it was painful to listen to) explantation of everything, it really was an excellent, enjoyable, fascinating tour!

Sacsaywaman and other nearby ruins

I took a tour of four ruins – Sacsaywaman, Q’enqo, Pukapukara, and Tambomachay – right outside of Cusco on Tuesday. I did not really want to take the tour, though I did want to see the ruins.

For weeks I had been hoping to find some fellow Spanish school student with whom I could visit the ruins according to the plan set out in my guidebook. According to the guidebook, the best way to see these particular ruins, which are located all in a row on a road outside of Cusco, is to take a bus to the farthest one and then walk the eight kilometers back to Cusco, stopping at each ruin and exploring at will along the way. Tragically enough, I could not find anyone to accompany me. All of the students who have been here for a while, like myself, had either already visited some or all of the particular ruins, had no interest, or could or would not make time on a Saturday morning to go along. The newer students either had made plans to tour the ruins as part of some grand tour of Cusco or had no intention of seeing them. So, I was stuck, since I figured it would be both unwise and rather lonely for me to walk from one ruin to another by myself.

Finally, last weekend I determined I either had to sign myself up for a tour or I would never go to the ruins, in which case I would be shirking my duty as a good tourist. On Monday after a considerable argument with myself, I managed to tear myself away from happily reading The Count of Monte Cristo while flopped across my bed basking in the afternoon sun to go book the tour. I headed to a certain, narrow street off the Plaza de Armas, where Lonely Planet told me was located a reputable tour agency. I could not find it. While I paused for a moment to stare at and ponder entering a random tour agency on the same street, a lady from said agency noticed me and beckoned me to please come in, as I was obviously looking for a Machu Picchu tour. Whereas I would normally have immediately rejected her proposal and walked away from her off-putting, annoyingly presumptuous salesmanship, I apathetically accepted her invitation and entered the office. Twenty or so minutes later I had surrendered S/40 in exchange for a “City Tour” for Tuesday afternoon, which had nothing to do with the city and everything to do with the ruins outside it, and a trip to Maras, Moray, and Salinas on Saturday. Admittedly, I felt slightly guilty for not comparing prices with other agencies, but I had feared that if I left the tour agency to check elsewhere, I might lose the thin shreds of motivation I had and not end up with a tour at all.

As it turned out, my tour of the ruins just outside of Cusco was just to my liking. It lasted from 2:00 until 6:00 on Tuesday afternoon. There were no more than 15 of us on the tour. We spent 45 minutes at the most and 20 minutes at the least at each of the ruins and our very nice guide gave all the explanations in Spanish. In fact, I was the only Westerner on the whole tour. Everyone else was a Latin American tourist, and I liked it that way. On the last tour I took – on my trip to Lake Titicaca – the guide tediously explained everything in both Spanish and English since some people on the tour only spoke English and others only spoke Spanish. It quickly became frustratingly boring for me because I could perfectly understand everything he said in Spanish but then was forced to listen to it again in his painful, nearly incomprehensible, accented English. Sufficed to say, I was relieved that there was only one language used on my tour of the ruins outside of Cusco. Furthermore, the amount of time we spent at each location was both perfectly adequate and perfectly brief, as I have never been one to spend massive quantities of time at historical sites of any kind (ask my mother about civil war battlefields sometime; or, better yet, don’t). ‘Twas a good tour. I am looking forward to Saturday’s.

From Claire's Peru Panoramas

my Cusqueñan Thanksgiving

Until this past Thursday I had never been away from my family for a holiday. And if I can help it, I never will be again. never. ever. ever.

Thanksgiving morning I had a normal breakfast (read: two rounds of bread with a smidgin of peanut butter and jelly and a cup of tea) and headed off to school. Class was quite typical.

I returned home after school to what my host mother deemed a “special” lunch for Día de Acción de Gracias. Apparently what made it special was that we had a large chunk of beef to eat with potatoes instead of rice and some tasty concoction of veggies and chicken, as normal. While I did enjoy the beef, I would have preferred one of the usual dishes. It is funny how she considers having a piece of tough beef as opposed to the delicious, creamy concoctions we eat daily, to be “special.” I would say the exact opposite.

After lunch I hung around the house for a while and checked on what had been left for me for supper (nothing good) before heading to school. On the way I stopped at a supermercado and bought a small bottle of drinkable yogurt, just because it was Thanksgiving, not because I was hungry or thirsty.

At school I spent about an hour and a half skyping with various family and extended maternal family members who were gathered, as always, at Grandma M.’s house. It was wonderful! Eventually, everyone had to go down to the giant, traditional bonfire. *sigh* After waisting a few more minutes on the computer catching up on various websites, I packed up and stepped out into the growing darkness around 6:30.

On the way home I first popped in to my favorite pastry place to purchase the pye de manzana (apple pie) I had been mentally saving for Thanksgiving. I asked for it “para llevar,” to go. As is customary for pastries here, “para llevar” meant that they placed my piece of pie on a styrofoam tray and placed the tray in a plastic bag. With my bag of pie clutched in one hand I walked over a few blocks to Avenida el Sol to find another, more expensive and slightly upscale pastry and sandwich shop where I had previously eaten an empanada de ají de gallina: a pastry filled with shredded chicken in a creamy, bright yellow, somewhat spicy sauce. They were out. And their regular empanadas de carne (beef) cost S/5! So, I left there and purchased an empanada de carne for half the price at a pastry and cake shop just a few shops down the road. I arrived home with a pastic bag of pastry in each hand and my backpack on my back around 7:00.

I threw my backpack on my bed, gathered the necessary items for my Thanksgiving supper, and brought everything to the kitchen.

And here are pictures to illustrate the rest:

on my further consumption of various types of animal flesh in Cusco

Three types, to be exact: alpaca, chicharrón (pork), and ceviche (fish), in that order. Though they were each rather scrumptious in their own way, I state with undeniable certainty that alpaca was by far my favorite.

I ate alpaca for supper two weekends ago. It had been my plan to do so for some time, and I was admittedly rather excited at the prospect. I made myself wait until 6:30 before setting out, to augment my hunger as much as possible. The place that Google had recommended to me was supposedly located just off the Plaza de Armas, but despite striding up and down both sides of the street, scanning the restaurant names, I could not find it. Happily, I had prepared for such a contingency. I strode (I say “strode” because that is how I usually walk around Cusco at night) my way to Macondo, a restaurant to which I had previously gone with a group of students to hear one of our classmates play mandolin. While I was there before I had caught a glimpse of the menu and some of the dishes, which were well-presented, smelled wonderful, and included alpaca. By 7:00 I had seated myself at a table in the dimly-lit, whimsically decorated restaurant and had ordered my “alpaca mignon,” which I selected because I wanted to know how alpaca meat itself tasted, not how some dish with bits of alpaca tasted. I LOVED it! It tasted like steak, but somehow a bit different. Perhaps it had a slightly metallic tang, though that could have been due to how rarely it was prepared. (Sorry, the slight taste difference between it and steak is very hard to describe, especially at a distance of a week and a half.) It was definitely much more tender than any steak I have ever eaten. Just in case you are wondering, it cost me S/25, plus a tip of S/2.50.

This past weekend I consumed the quite traditional chicharrón – chunks of deep fried pork. I had a similar problem with finding a restaurant as with the alpaca. My host mother suggested I eat chicharrón on Sunday when I told her my intention to do so over the weekend. Accordingly, I made myself wait (again) until 1:30 on Sunday before heading straight up the street to a chicharrón place I pass on the way to and from school and that always smells delicious. It was closed. So, I walked down and over a few streets to another one I knew of. It, too, was closed. Good grief! I think this past Sunday must have been some sort of holiday or something because many more shops and restaurants were closed than usual. According to my Lonely Planet Peru book, Sunday is supposed to be the traditional day to eat out. Hmph. Anyways, after my second disappointment, I determined to head to the “chicharrón street,” as some of us Spanish school students refer to it, where there are three or four chicharrón restaurants in a row. Fifteen minutes of walking and numerous protestations of my hungry stomach later, I turned the corner onto the street. Only one chicharrón restaurant was open! I seated myself, the lone patron, at a table in the sun and was soon served my chunks chicharrón plus the requisite sides on an insufficiently large plate. Really, the chicharrón tasted like fried pork. They were not incredibly spectacular, just tasty. However, when combined in one bite with the corn, potato, onion, and mint that came alongside them, their taste – or the combined taste of everything in the forkful, rather – was quite unique and enjoyable. Total cost: S/10.

I ate ceviche – raw fish “cooked” in citrus juice – yesterday more or less on a whim. During mid-morning break at Spanish school I was invited by the gregarious and fun Dutch Charlotte to join her and some other people to eat ceviche at the same restaurant where she had eaten and loved ceviche last week. At first I intimated that I probably should not and could not go, as my host mother expected me home for lunch, as always. But, after arguing with myself in class for a few minutes, I decided there was no reason for me to not text Adela and ask permission to eat out just this once. Plus, if I did not eat ceviche with the group, I would probably never eat it. Adela responded to my text by calling and giving her enthusiastic consent. Therefore, after a 45-minute, time-killing stint at the internet cafe across from school, I walked down to the meeting place with another girl who was going. There were eight of us, all girls. I think we must have made quite a sight walking to the restaurant in one abnormally tall by Pervian standards, white, English-speaking group. The restaurant was sunny and filled with Peruvians. We ordered four plates of ceviche, three plates of fried fish, and one plate of rice with mussels and the like. Everything was delicious, espcially the fried fish. The ceviche itself was somewhat citrusy, a bit spicy, and rather alarmingly white and floppy. I decided that I prefer raw fish I eat to be pink rather than white; the pale, creamy color of the fish was a bit unappetizing. However, the flavor certainly was not bad. For me, though, I think it is one of those dishes that I never will feel the need to eat again. It was good once. And that is sufficient. S/20. (Good food is cheap here, people!)

Pictures!