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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

This post was done without the help of “Google Translate,” but does have an assist from my Spanish tutor, Fernanda.

The Most Typical Scene of St. Paddy's Day in Lima

Para el día de San Patrick, nosotros queríamos cocinar un desayuno tradicional de Irlanda. En Irlanda, un desayuno tradicional consiste de huevos (normalmente un huevo frito), tocino, salchichas de morcilla (o salchichas normales), los frijoles (blancos), tomates y panes. Para beber, hay te fuerte, no el tipo de té que se pone en Starbucks. En EEUU, este tipo de desayuno se llama “El Desayuno Irlanda” pero en Europa lo se llama “El Desayuno Completo.” Fue un poco difícil para nosotros encontráramos los ingredientes Irlandeses pero yo pienso que ella cocinó una buen aproximación al desayuno tradicional. En Perú, por ejemplo, hay muchas variedades de las salchichas y nosotros las usamos en nuestro desayuno.

Irish Dancers, all of which are Limenos or Limenas

 

Tradicionalmente, los Irlandeses comían los desayunos grandes porque, especialmente para los obreros, ellos solamente comían dos veces, en la mañana y en la noche. Ahora, por supuesto, los Irlandeses comen igual que en otras partes del mundo occidental. Dicho esto, la mayor parte de Europa y EEUU toma un desayuno mucho más grande que aquí (a excepción de España, por supuesto). Normalmente, en EEUU, durante el Día de San Patrick muchas personas comen “corn beef” (una carne que tiene muchas sal) y berza. Por lo tanto, en Lima, a mi me parece que “carne de vacuno” y berza no existen aquí. Nosotros estábamos contenta porque a ella no le gusta carne de vacuno.

An Irish Band, full of actual Irish

 

Después de hicimos el desayuno, los amigos llegaron a nuestra casa. Cuando ellos llegaron, yo estaba viendo el partido de futbol (era de mi equipo favorito). Después del partido—que terminó antes de la primera mitad porque un jugador tuvo un ataque al corazón—comimos bocadillos y bebimos tragos. Muchos irlandeses creen que el día de San Patrick es un día donde EEUU humillo a Irlanda y están siempre hablando de tragos. En EEUU, hay muchas personas creen que ellos son totalmente Irlandeses. Esas personas llevan camisetas verdes y siempre están tomando tragos. Los verdaderos irlandeses llaman a esas personas “Irlandeses de plástico.”

A las tres, salimos del departamento a una festiva Irlandesa en el Cricket Club de Lima. Primero, es muy raro que el festival sea en un club de cricket. El cricket es un juego que uno asocia con Inglaterra, los antiguos colonos de Irlanda. En Irlanda, que juegan un juego llamado “hurling”, que es un poco similar al hockey sobre hierba. Por supuesto, nadie juega este juego pero los Irlandesas.

The Gang

Pero, en este festival había Guinness (la cerveza de Irlanda) y que f ue una mejor razón por la que fuimos al festival. ¡Había una escasez de Guinness en Lima! ¡Que horror, que horror! En general, el festival fue interesante porque era una fusión de Perú y Irlanda. El festival fue una fiesta en la piscina, donde hijos y padres llevaban trajes de baño. Había algunos bailarines (ellos no eran Irlandeses, pero ellos eran buenos) y una banda irlandesa. En cuanto a la comida, había salchichas y helados. En total, el Día de Santo Patrick fue interesante.

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Hello, it’s time for another lovely edition of random musings or, by it’s fancier sounding name, unrelated observations of Peru. The random musings tactic is like the clip show of blogging; it’s something that the blogger can do to provide content without the structured thinking that a normal post requires. Or when your life is just a bit boring (really, how many times might people who are not my family want to read about getting taxis and grading papers). Essentially, this is the lazy person’s way to blog and, if you notice the time between my posts, I’ve been pretty lazy. Of course, like all lazy people I’ve got a ton of great excuses, like “I’m super busy at other things!” Well, the semester here is winding down and plenty of students need help on their final projects so…on with the show:

  • Well, even though it’s not quite summer yet the weather has definitely changed. The temperature has risen and it gets pretty sunny (more or less). The most unusual aspect of the weather is how most days begin overcast but changes into a brighter day with slightly clearer skies. Even when it stays a bit overcast, it usually warms up to a comfortable level, even if most days start of a bit gloomy.
  • A few weeks ago, we hired a maid on the suggestion of one of our friends. Her name is Teo, and she does a fantastic job with the apartment. The thing is, I still feel a bit awkward about having a maid (or limpiadora) in the first place. My family never had a maid nor did we ever rent a cleaning service, so it’s a change to have someone in my house cleaning up after me (Comment from my mother below in 3…2…1…). I don’t know if my feelings about Teo are leftover baggage of bourgeois guilt or just one the new cultural differences with which one must be accustomed.
  • My new favorite food here are anticuchos. I don’t want to spoil them for anybody, but if you happen to meat eater they’re delicious.
  • I feel like my Spanish is definitely (or at least hopefully) improving. A lot of times, I can understand what is been asked or said to me, even if I can’t necessarily translate the words verbatim. Of course, I still get a little lost whenever a person uses too much slang or mumbles. Yet improvement is improvement, so I’m just happy that the language blocks are getting fewer and fewer.
  • After quite a few experiments, all done in the interest of science mind you, I’ve discovered that Cusquena is much better in a bottle. Though, if you must, drinking it in glass is still pretty good.
  • Finally, on a bit of a home sickness note, I absolutely miss Autumn. As someone who grew up in the Midwest, this time of year (calendar wise) has always been my favorite part of the year. The changing flora and fauna, along with the opportunity to wear all my cool sweaters, puts me in a good mode. In Lima, the opposite change is, of course, occurring as the seaons is getting warmer. I feel all discombobulated as my body seems to expect the weather to get colder. Yet, whenever I’ve mentioned this to any of my friends back in the US–especially the ones living in colder climates–they tend to give me a fairly snarky remark. I think I can actually hear them roll their eyes through the computer.

 

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Don't worry, those people are just metaphors. Cannibalism isn't the bedrock of the Latin American Food Pyramid.

Since moving to Peru, I’ve lost weight. Quite a bit of weight, actually. By my estimation, I’ve probably dropped 15 or 20 pounds, which puts me right back at my fighting weight of 165 or so. I can only provide guesses about my weight, as we don’t own a scale. This drop in weight is especially interesting because back in the States I was a gluten-free grad student. In Lima, I’ve relaxed my eating habits and have started to drink beer again. So, I really haven’t gone on any sort of diet since arriving in Peru. I haven’t been able to exactly pin down the reasons, but I have a couple of guesses (and no, it’s not from Ole’ Monty’s Revenge).

First—although I could be proven wrong—I don’t really think my slimming down is due to diet (though not having the stress eating caused by finishing a PhD probably helps). Now, plenty of Peruvian food is probably better for my diet than US food as there’s less deep-fried food available; however, fatty food is not scarce and some of the traditional Peruvian dishes are uber-starchy. Hell, that’s the reason why many Peruvian dishes are so good; they understand that all the “really good” dishes are created by the things that aren’t necessarily good for you, like butter. Lomo Saltado, for instance, is grilled steak with onions and peppers, served with rice and French Freedom Dumb-jingoistic-renaming-of-potatoes fries. And there’s no skimpin’ on the rice and fries. Yes it’s delicious, but that’s a lot of carbs. So not everything in this city is healthy like ceviche. Plus, I still have my general laziness when it comes to cooking, which isn’t helped by the fact that almost everywhere in Lima will deliver. So there are a variety of food options available, many of which can be sent directly to your doorstep.

I mean, seriously, the food here is great. The amount of restaurants that look great is just staggering, from little shops or cevicherias to swank Italian/Peruvian fusion places. Not to mention the sushi restaurants. Oh the sushi restaurants! Lima knows my one and only weakness, sushi restaurants.

Cause it's a cute picture: That is all

As for exercise, yeah there’s probably something to that. Since I don’t own a car, I walk a lot. Even if I take a taxi or combi, I usually have to walk at least a bit to get to my destination. Also, taking a taxi everywhere can get expensive, so if it’s possible I try to huff it to my destination. The other major reason I think I walk a lot in Lima is the nice weather. Even during this winter, the weather hasn’t been too bad (especially if you’re coming from the Midwest with its Sub Zero weather).

So, is moving to South America a weight loss plan? Probably not. I definitely don’t want to essentialize Peruvian food or lifestyle as some sort of exotic cure all because that comes with whole lot of yucky stereotypes about the developing world. However, I think that it’s okay for me to state that I’ve changed my diet and increased my exercise; consequently, it is probably fair to say that there’s something about the lifestyle here in Lima has impact my eating habits for the better.

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Who knew, an old NES game called "Montezuma's Revenge"

As in shit. And other fluids. I have been in Peru just over two months, and have been inflected with my first case of food poisoning. Or the dreaded Montezuma’s Revenge as it’s more commonly known (though Peru is the wrong country). And yes, it’s as bad as everyone says. Fortunately, my episode only lasted about 24 hours, which at least made it painfully brief. Unlike me, however, it did create a bit of a blockage  in my blog posting (Zing!). I’ll post about my experiences teaching soon, as I’ve had that post in the hopper for awhile now.

Throughout my stay, I’ve been incredibly careful about what I eat and drink. Hell, I even keep my mouth clamped shut in the shower. I’m not kidding. It’s like I’m a little kid at the dentist who is refusing to open his mouth (Spoiler: I totally was that kid). Yet, I think that an episode is unavoidable. If you’re traveling, it seems pretty easy to take enough precautions here in Lima to avoid any real contact with the dreaded “la venganza de Moctezuma.” Basically, if you avoid tap water, ice, and eat at nice places you’re pretty much in good shape. Yet, if you’ve decided to relocate here, your chances of getting stomach problems is probably 100%. Given enough time, all results will trend toward zero. Many ex-pats often speak of it as a sort of right of passage. Get it, deal with it, and then move on.

Actually, I find it pretty funny as almost everyone, from family to friends, has made a joke about it. Something about moving to a South American country elicits jokes about the shits. That said, it’s not the most terrible thing. Most good restaurants in Lima–even the cheap ones frequented by many locals–are very clean establishments. Of course there are dive bars/restaurants you want to avoid, but they’re pretty easy to spot. As I’ve mentioned earlier, Peruvians take their cooking really seriously, so most restaurants are clean, well-run, and offer delicious food. However, mistakes will happen. In my case, I don’t even think it was the actual food. From our deduction, we think it was from breakfast, which was basically just tocino y huevos (bacon and eggs). No fruit, uncooked meats, or fish. What probably happened was that the plate wasn’t completely dried off before they served me. Or, maybe, I just had a bad reaction to something. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not exactly known for having an iron stomach. In fact, I’m pretty famous for weak stomach. Or infamous. Or notorious. But, without a doubt, always embarrassed by it. Ah well, as a great man said: “It happens.

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Hmm, tasty. So tasty.

Tonight I indulged in two of my most favorite, and somewhat secret, pleasures: going to gringo places and watching the UFC. The latter I’ve enjoyed for awhile, much to the dismay of many of my friends who treat the UFC with a basic shrug that says “Why do they have to wrestle so much?” In Peru, I’ve actively tried to go and experience many things, especially at places (restaurants, shops, etc.) where I would be forced to speak Spanish. I enjoy these experiences. If I didn’t, then I probably have made a very bad life choice. Yet, I do miss somethings about the good ole’ USA; namely, chicken wings and sports bars. Oh Jaysus do I miss chicken wings. So, after I moved out of the hotel I went in search for a place that would serve chicken wings and brewskis.

At the Corner: NORM!

Thankfully, I discovered The Corner Bar. It’s  Miraflores only US style sports bar, complete with TVs and cable. The Corner, as it’s called by the locals, specializes in sports for both the US/Expat and Peruvian taste. It’s the sorta place where half the TVs will be showing Barcelona or Universario (arguably Peru’s most popular soccer team) and the other half will be showing the Jets or, even, the UFC. It makes for a nice mix of people, but it’s definitely a place that caters to the gringos.

If we get to the brass tacks of the place, the chicken wings are pretty good. A bit dry, but not too bad. The beer is nice and cold, however. They only serve Cusquena on tap, but, and I mean this seriously, Cusquena is all you really need. If in Ireland you really only need to drink Guinness, then in Lima you only need to drink Cusquena. So it was very comforting to eat chicken wings and drink beer, while indulging in my secret pleasure of watching guys smack each other in the face. While wearing shorts. With shaved chests. Hmm, now that I think about it, I feel like somebody should ask me if I like gladiator movies.

"It's so good! Once it hits your lips, it's so good."

The point of this post, which I think may have slipped away from me, is that I think it’s okay to enjoy things that remind me of home. I feel somewhat guilty, as I really enjoy throwing myself into Peruvian culture. It’s always a learning experience, and it’s always something that, despite it’s difficulties, provides a certain level of enjoyment. Having a place that will, for lack of better word, remind me of home seems like a good thing. It does, I’ve found, make me feel a little sheepish, like I’ve chickened out about living here. It makes me feel like I’m retreating into a zone of comfort that keeps me from learning/getting accustomed to Peruvian culture. But screw these feelings. I think these are just foolish thoughts, or so I hope. I feel like it’s okay to hold on to bits and pieces of the things about my home. Even chicken wings and dumb UFC guys.

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Marian Tacu-Tacu: Shellfish over rice

Early on in the blog, I promised to write a bit about the food here in Lima. In the meantime, I’ve been busy finding an apartment, getting the job stuff in order, planning courses, and picking up my dogs from customs

(an experience that was somewhere between the 3rd or 4th circles of hell). As a result, the food post was shelved. But now, oh boy, I get to have some fun and indulge my inner food critic and travel writer.

 

First off, everything the guidebooks or travel books tell you is true. All of it. Peru, and Lima, is an absolute must stop for any person who is interested in world cuisine or just likes stuffing their face (hint: Me!). Limeños love to brag about their food. They take a lot of (much deserved) pride in

Sushi-ceviche

being called the gastronomic capital of South America. Cooking shows frequent most TV channels and a small coterie of celeb-chefs are becoming increasingly prominent members of Peruvian pop culture (Gaston Acurio being the most famous). The food here is really fantastic.

The main building blocks of any world class cuisine are the ingredients. I know this because I’ve watched more than my fair share of Gordon Ramsay yelling about it to poor schlubbs on the TV. Peruvian cuisine has access to a staggering diversity in raw materials, a true benefit to any chef or wannabe chef (again, Me!). There are wide range of fruits, vegetables, and meats in Peru, though it’s most charming feature might be the nation’s almost fetishistic interest in potatoes. What helps Peru generate this diverse collection of foods (and makes it different from many equatorial countries) is the fact the country has several “life zones.” Beaches, tropical jungle, desert, mountains are all stuffed together in this country. It’s like the New York subway of countries, all shapes and sizes squeezed together in one compact space.

On to the food! Since I have an unabashed love for seafood, I have chomped down on quite a few fish dishes. Fresh fish is everywhere in Lima, and even the quality and diversity you can get at a mercado (grocery store) is amazing. If you actually go down to the docks where the fresh fish is brought in, it’s even more impressive. This effect is doubled if you are a gringo coming from a small, landlocked Midwestern state. In my brief time here, I have gorged myself on all types of seafood dishes, from fusion sushi/ceviche (ceviche onto of a California roll), hearty sopas (soups stuffed with scallops, clams, and squid over rice), and sea bass over risotto. They were all delicious, in their own ways. Looking at this brief list, you can probably already see another of Lima’s cooking treats: the interest in fusion cuisine. Some of the most popular types of fusion cooking in Lima mix traditional Peruvian styles with Italian, Japanese, French, and Chinese cooking styles. Though South American and Caribbean styles can also be readily found.

Lomo Saltado

Traditional Peruvian food, unlike some of the fireworks and experiments found in fusion cooking, is simple and straightforward. However, this shouldn’t be confused with being bland or lacking unique techniques or flavors. Any nation known for a dish like ceviche is not one where you’d find blandness. Outside of the seafood, barbeque chicken dishes are another specialty of Lima I’ve made disappear into myface. The main style is sort of a rotisserie chicken, which at the best places is done over a wood charcoal grill. Although not totally dry, I’ve noticed that quite a bit of Peruvian food eschews sauces in favor of spices and rubs. The skin on the chicken, for example, is usually pretty crisp and crunchy.

Well, that should indulge, for now, my desire to write about food. I think the next time I tackle food, I’ll try to wrangle out some in-depth analyzes of certain dishes. Unfortunately, right now the food scene here is still overwhelming and delicious for this gringo, like only the best food can be.

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