Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Mangez des Cuy!

Leaving Aguas Calientes, the same (or similar) illness that knocked down every other person in our group finally knocked me down...and out. Food poisoning? Bad water? Norwalk virus? You never know. Your gastrointestinal tract declares war. Taken prisoner are your appetite, along with your will to do anything but sleep. Rash promises are made. Luckily, we’re now back in Cusco and it’s not a travel day. I can sleep most of the day away. Then, gradually, terms of an armistice are worked out. Make reparations. Take drugs. Pour electrolytes down your throat. Fortunately, every restaurant along the Peruvian tourist trail offers “Chicken Diet Soup”, the gateway back to solid foods.

But it’s here in Cusco that we planned to try a traditional Peruvian specialty: “cuy”…or guinea pig. Low in fat and high in protein, guinea pigs have been part of the Andean diet for centuries. There’s even a painting of the Last Supper in the Cusco cathedral with Jesus and the apostles dining on “cuy”. Can’t miss out.

Off we go to a nearby restaurant for a dinner of guinea pig. Some restaurants let you choose which live guinea pig you want to have (like choosing a lobster from a tank), but not here. Our guinea pig, roasted, comes out of the kitchen with a pepper in its mouth, surrounded by roast potatoes, raw vegetables (oh no!), and a ball of mashed sweet potato.

What does it taste like? I guess the closest comparison is rabbit, but gamier. Certainly chewy. Unfortunately, the taste of roasted garlic overwhelms it. Back to the chicken soup!

A note of caution. The word for guinea pig in Peru is “cuy”. Sounds very much like a French slang word, couille. So, if you tell your francophone friends about your adventures in Peru, eating “cuy”, you may want to be clear about what that is.

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