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Day 20 – Lima in My Mouth

October 30, 2010

Location: Lima, Peru

Date: Saturday, October 30, 2010

Food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Eating good food is nearly as sensually stimulating as sex and has a few advantages: inviting more participants is normal (even expected); people don’t look at you funny if you do it in public; you already know that everything goes in your mouth; you get to do it with pigs (I’ll leave off the qualifiers for any Jews, Muslims, or recreational deviants who take issue with the particulars of these assertions). (Feel free to use the comments to speculate what advantages were cut from the final draft.)

The point is, if you don’t enjoy good food, you’re missing out on half of what makes life worth living (the other half: good company). One in every three gods agrees. Seriously.

All’s to say is this is the mega-ultimate-super-wow food post. I’ve covered food in the past (e.g. in Vietnam here and here). None like today, though.

All I did today was eat. Oh I wrote too, but that was mostly because I needed a break from eating. When I look at the list of food I ate, I am both horrified and inspired. I am a fat man trapped in a skinny man’s body. Today that fat man wants to give that skinny man a big, lardy hug. He also wants to be adopted by Karem and Doug’s family.

So enjoy. Or don’t and know you’re missing out. Oh, and unless otherwise specified, it was delicious.

I Put Lima in My Mouth – A SPECIAL EDITION of a Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures Round 1

I didn’t mean to eat so much. My Spanish is weak so when someone asked what I wanted and I heard the word combinacion I said, “Si.” So while everyone ended up with papa a la huancaina I ended up with four times as much food (one portion of each of the above). Papa a la huancaina is a potato stew with beef (hearty, heavy). Ceviche is fish allowed to cook in the acids of onions and herbs (sour, vinegary, light). Chanfainita is—I learned later—cow lung, hominy, and potato (soft, salty).

I Put Lima in My Mouth – A SPECIAL EDITION of a Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures Round 2

Instead of cabbing back to the apartment, we opted to walk partway back. Five minutes after nearly passing out from eating too much, I split, with Doug, a bag of yuquitas purchased from a street vendor. Named after the yucca because of the way it looks, it’s fried strips of white flour batter. Sort of like picarones but sauceless and not as sweet.

I Put Lima in My Mouth – A SPECIAL EDITION of a Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures Round 3

Feeling sorry for me, Heather and Marie and grabbed me a snack for the bus from Ica to Lima. I hadn’t eaten it. I got around to it while writing. I might have eaten the whole thing. Peruvian chocolate, by the way, tastes good. Not as sweet as its American counterpart, I think.

I Put Lima in My Mouth – A SPECIAL EDITION of a Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures Round 4

I cannot tell you how surprised I was to go to almuerzo (“lunch”). I was barely over desayuno (“breakfast”). We walked downstairs and to the outdoor food market next door. At a little food shop, we sat down at a wooden table and shared the food above. Peruvian families, it seems, make sure you are well fed.

Key question: What makes chaufa different from Asian fried rice? It’s mostly the spices. Plus, it seems like there’s less MSG.

I Put Lima in My Mouth – A SPECIAL EDITION of a Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures Round 5

Writing snack offered by Tio Roberto and accepted by me.

I Put Lima in My Mouth – A SPECIAL EDITION of a Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures Round 6 –

On a break from writing, Doug taught me how to eat a granadilla. The fruit has an orange-like peel, but crisper. You keep the white layer underneath intact. Inside are little, large but soft black seeds wrapped in flesh (think something like pomegranates). You poke a hole in the top of the white layer and suck the little flavor pebbles into your mouth, seeds and all. Sweet, light, flavor with some soft iridescent flesh, it’s my favorite new fruit. The crunch of the seeds takes it over the top. Tastes good and fun to eat; what more could you ask for?

I Put Lima in My Mouth – A SPECIAL EDITION of a Periodic Feature on Food Told (Mostly) in Pictures Round 7

Our epic food day ended at a place called Sofa Café in a local mall. We almost walked out because it seemed like a chain restaurant (we wanted something more local). We’re glad we didn’t.

Two major highlights:

(1) Chocolate Peruano caliente con canela y pisco, a concoction of Peruvian chocolate, pisco, and cinnamon. The power of the pisco was perfectly cut with the sweetness of the chocolate. The spiciness of the cinnamon, however, ensured that the drink still had bite. The fact that it was warm threw it all over the top. The perfect drink to accompany a roaring fire back home. I will find a way to make this or die trying.

(2) A guitarist who played and sang Latin covers of all manner of old pop songs. Songs included: Blind Melon’s No Rain, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Counting Crows’ Mr. Jones. The man also played Spanish language classics, one of which led to the night’s most soulful conversation.

Sofa Café turned out to be the surprise of the day.

In sum, an epic day. And, as is the case with all my favorite feasts, the only thing that topped the food was the company.

GALLERY: Click through to today’s gallery to see a picture of the three food adventurers along with a little foodie in training.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Doris permalink
    November 8, 2010 5:55 pm

    There are tears in my eyes, you make me so proud! You are a food champ.

    And, papa la huancaina is not beef stew, it is the potato with the cheese sauce on it. And it is something that I know how to make – even in Hanford.

    • November 10, 2010 2:08 pm

      My bad. Of course you’re right. The cheese sauce over potatoes is the base, but the beef is an add on that’s pretty normal. Or am I wrong on that, too?

  2. David permalink
    November 10, 2010 3:43 pm

    man, these photos of the local cuisine look delicious! ah, man — it’s a form of self-torture to gaze at these! can’t wait till i can eat again. enjoying the blog very much, merv.

    • November 11, 2010 2:20 pm

      Something to look forward to. Perhaps food will taste sweeter after such a long sabbatical.

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