Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Food, Glorious Food

We asked for some ideas for future blog posts, and food was one of the requested topics, along with more info about our work here, and so I thought I would combine the 2.  I really enjoy cooking in Cusco, and discovering new dishes.  I cooked a delicious quinua soup the other day, full of veg and was very proud to see Sophia and Daniel yumming it up 3 days running. I am getting used to cooking at altitude - food can take longer to cook and the pressure cooker proves invaluable for certain meals.  Neil, however, has given up on cooking his chocolate cake, as it flops every time here.

There are lots and lots of restaurants in Cusco, and we tried Peruvian Chinese for the first time over the weekend - it was delicious.  In the centre, there are lots of places aimed at tourists, and the English pub even sells roast dinner.  One place does amazing nachos.

  A lot of the restaurants, though, offer menus, a fixed price 2 or 3 course meal. They normally start with a soup, followed by a main meal.  Trout is the most popular fish, but meat is very popular.  There is of course, cuy (guinea pig), but people really only eat it on special occasions.  One of Sophia's favourite Peruvian dish is Aji de Gallini, a creamy chicken dish with ajis (Peruvian peppers).   Daniel just loves pollo a la brasa - chicken and chips.  He said the other day 'I want a big chunk of chicken for lunch.' His other favourite is arroz con leche - rice pudding - which is popular with all of us.

We buy most of our food at the local supermarket, but buy our fruit and vegetables at one of the local markets. It is always an interesting experience, especially as we actually have seasons here!  It is great to be told that something is out of season, and won't be available for a few months - how different from the UK wheer we have become so accustomed to having fruit and veg all year around, despite the environmental cost.  Daniel and Sophia were very excited today when I bought home choklo, Peruvian maize, as it is in season again.  They both love it and it is a good discipline for all of us to wait for the things that we like the best.  This isn't limited to fruit and veg though, as the supermarkets seem to work in seasons as well.  Some products appear randomly on the shelves, only to disappear for weeks or months on end.  Mission workers discuss what is available and rush to the shops to stock up, and it makes us appreciate our favourite things that much more.

I still make mistakes with food, though.  The other day, I managed to buy the wrong kind of bananas which are used with cooking.  I bought a big bunch, so I thought I would get creative and made a banana curry. It smelt good, it looked good, and tasted pretty awful.  Daniel took one look and said, 'I am not eating that as I know I won't like it.'  We made him try it, but his original prognosis was correct.  I felt pretty bad, though as we had a dinner guest.  She genuinely seemed to like it, and said it was similar to a dish from another part of Peru.  She was so keen that we gave her the left overs to take home and were quite frankly glad to be rid of it and pleased it was going to be appreciated elsewhere.

Having now completely finished language study, we now have more time to have people round and cook for them.  I think sharing food together is important in most cultures, and Peru is no exception.  I have, however, learnt to cook in bulk, as there are times when we are not quite sure who is coming.  I cook up a feast so that we can feed whoever turns up and can freeze the left overs.  I have meeting with a teenage girl for a few months, but we have recently started eating together first.  It is so great to spend this time together, and as our language improves, I think we will enjoy these times more and more.  I recently cooked chilli for the young people and that was popular too - there wasn't much left over, so from this I conclude the appetite of teenagers is a universal phenomenon.

As we have more opportunities to eat together and share life, we can practise the gift of hospitality more and more.  This, to us, is an important part of our work and ministry here.  We are blessed to have so much good food to eat and enjoy, although that shouldn't stop people sending out more chocolate; it is always gratefully received.

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