Deliciousness from the mamacha‘s blanket
As mentioned, the locals don’t only carry their children on their backs in their big colorful blanket, but they also carry big pots of food in exactly the same way. They put a couple of big pots with 2 different dishes in there, 4 plates, some forks and they’re all ready to sell their yummy food on the street or in the local market. The 4 plates are washed in a basin they bring with them, so the next customers can eat quickly. This could be a strange scene at first. One can question the taste this food might have, the environment it was prepared in and of course the hygenic condition of the plates. Not even mentioning you have to eat these dishes on the street, sitting on the curb, or if you’re in the market you might be lucky enough to get a small bench. This view didn’t surprise us much, since we were introduced to these eating habits in Asia, where after a few days of shock we got used to it and realised that if all those millions of people are still alive after eating that way, we would probably be too. It was the same here – at first we hesitated and it felt strange, but as soon as we realised not only that we survived, but also that is was super delicious, we ate in such places without a trace of hesitation.
We loved eating out in Peru not only because the food was so yummy, but also because it was so incredibly cheap. Besides the above mentioned ’blanket food’ you can buy fresh bread (that looks like a flat bun) made of wheat, corn, yam and other cereals, 6 pieces for no more than 1 Sol (30 US cent). Every night in the market you can buy 1L of fresh milk for 1.5 Soles and 1 L of home made yogurt for 3.5 Soles. How can one complain of anything?:)
Our favorite – the fresh fruit salad in the local market
On our first visit to the market we discovered it stays open until late afternoon and besides fruits and vegetables there are plenty of mamachas selling fresh fruit juice, fruit salad and even proper food. We first became acquainted with the fruit salad in Calca, 2 days after the end of our Vipassana meditation retreat. A big plate of cut pinnapple, papaya, apple and banana, all topped with freshly squeezed orange juice, yogurt and honey, and some wheat cereal sprinkled on it. All that deliciousness for about a dollar… we felt we were close to Heaven. As for the juice, you’d pay 2.5 Soles for a mixed juice and get almost a whole liter. We found the same thing in pretty much all towns we went to – all this deliciousness and also the best people around selling it:).
Coffee with milk… or milk with coffee?
Our first time in a coffe shop, again immediately after the meditation course, Boca and I ordered a coffee with milk. A few minutes later the mamita came and put 2 pints of milk on the table. I looked at her and in panic exclaimed “No, no, no, we want coffee with milk”. She looked at me as if to say “Relax, you silly rabbit” and said nothing but “Yes yes” as she put a little metal container on the table as well. When we looked inside we saw a bit of coffee, not more than the size of an espresso. That was our coffee… with milk. We had never experienced that before, asking for a coffee with milk and receiving 300ml of hot milk and 10ml of coffee… but hey, “When in Rome…”. We mixed the two liquids and realised the things we had missed in life before coming to Peru. Boca liked it so much she wanted to have it every day for the next two months (she didn’t get it though as it was 2.5 Soles each hahaha). Apparently milk with coffee can taste better than coffee with milk, eh? Once more, the things you learn and experience while traveling…:)
What to eat for lunch?
We knew from our half year ago experience in Peru that while here we have to eat the Menu de Dia (Menu of the Day) for lunch and dinner, as that’s much cheaper. It was funny how we found that out though. We were in Puno and we entered a restaurant to find some dinner. We stared at the menu for a while… all the main courses were 15 Soles and above. We were still thinking what to do when I saw this board saying “Menu de Dia” and then a few dishes listed below, dessert and drink included. So I asked the lady if she had that and how much it cost. She said yes, and then said “6 Soles”. I looked at her frowning, we all looked at each other in disbelief… Can it be? we were wondering. Nah, she must have said 16 and we didn’t understand properly. So, still frowning, we looked at her and asked? “Six?” At which her quick reply was “Ok, ok, for you 5!”. Seriously???
That was how we learned that in Peru the Menu de Dia is the way to go, especially if you’re on a budget. The cheapest we found was as low as 2.5Soles for soup and the main course, and 3.5 for soup, main course, drink and dessert. Many times the food is not vegetarian, but if you ask them nicely they will replace the meat with salad or egg, or they’ll prepare a vegetarian local delicacy for you: Arroz a la Cubana. It’s nothing more than rice with fried egg, fried banana and salad. At first it might sound bizzare, but the combination of salty and sweet is actually quite delicious, so this soon became one of our favorite dishes here. What’s funny about it is that the definition of “Arroz a la cubana” is so vague that almost everywhere it’s served a bit differently – some add fries, others give you more banana, others more salad… it’s in a way good because every place you’re going you’ll still excitedly wait to see what’s going to arrive on your plate.
And for dinner?
Pretty much every evening the main square (usually Plaza de Armas) is filled with mamachas and papachos selling different small snacks which for some can count as dinner. You see little grills with juicy sausages and potatoes everywhere, cheese sandwiches, rice pudding, churros, hot chocolate with bread and many other hot and cold drinks. There is always at least a cart with fruits and fresh bread too. We loved to be out and try the home made delicacies, and it felt great (albeit a bit surreal) to be drinking hot chocolate with the papachos in the main square. In Europe that’d surely be beer instead. Oh well…:)
Culture, oh culture…
We couldn’t imagine the main squares in European cities filling up in the evening with aunties selling hot chocolate and fresh bread by the side of the road. Or selling lunch from their blankets and washing the dishes in their big buckets, ready to serve the next customers. It’s such a strange concept for us that even here there are very few tourists who dare to try these local foods for 3 Soles, and instead go to the fancy restaurants and pay USD10 – 15 for a meal. It’s so hard for people to move out of our comfort zone sometimes, and even while traveling.
Our recommendation: if you’re around just take a deep breath and experience these local traditions, as that’s how you’ll get to really feel the people and the culture here as opposed to being the usual tourist who travels in a bit of a “safe” bubble.
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