Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Guinea Pig again: Chivay, Peru

Heading across Peru to the Colca Canyon, we stopped in a small town for lunch at a small cafe/restaurant. They were expecting us, and had laid out an enormous and delicious buffet for us. We were treated to Alpaca steaks, Llama kebabs (with a satay-ish sauce), a spicy fish stew, and various other fantastic dishes.

Later in the evening, however, having arrived in Chivay, we were to visit an indigenous family to sample some real Peruvian home cooking. Our welcoming guests (who spoke absolutely no English) invited us to help prepare the dinner, and I jumped at the chance to learn some new techniques.

Sylvana, the new commis chef.

I wasn't quite expecting the job they gave me, however. Having joined the family in the kitchen, they gave me a live guinea pig, and explained (with the help of our Peruvian guide/translator) how to kill and prepare it. I'm not squeamish by any means, but it was the first time I had had to kill a mammal for food. I'd killed fish before, but that just seems so much easier. They don't squeak or wriggle quite so much.

Still, holding the Guinea Pig firmly behind it's head, I pulled and twisted its neck, as directed, until I heard it break, then pulled and twisted some more to make sure. You'd be surprised how easy it was; the Guinea Pig died quickly and humanely, and to be honest I was quite proud of how well it had gone.

Anyway, the job wasn't over as I had to pull the fur off the carcass, before slicing open the belly and removing the organs. From there, I left it to the lady of the house to finish preparing the meat and cook it, while I returned to the dining room with the others, most of whom hadn't wanted to help/watch me kill their dinner.

Twenty minutes later and our food was presented to us, starting with a typical yet tasty Quinoa and Vegetable Broth, followed by seared Alpaca Steaks, and finally the unlucky Guinea Pig. I can't say it tasted any better knowing that I'd slaughtered it myself, but I am happy to have taken part and experienced that, and I would definitely do it again when called upon.

After dinner, we were all fairly exhausted after a long day's travel but rumours of the Highest Irish Pub in the World (we were at about 4000m altitude here) spurred us on long into the night.

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