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Lima: Gastronomic Capital of the Americas…

….or so the limeños like to say.  And I can’t really argue with them on that one.

One word: Mistura.  AKA “the most important food festival of the Americas.”  Oh. my. goodness.

It lasts ten days, so we went Friday, which was the opening day.  Imagine a state/county fair, then take out all the rides/animals/etc and you are left with the best part….the food.  (Duh.)  Then multiply that by 50 (no exaggeration!), and that’s Mistura.
We got there around three, and after a quick survey of (some of) the offerings, we started in.  Basically we bought different plates and then shared them to maximize the amount of plates we tried.  And I still ate way too much….
#1 Chupe con mariscos (a soup typical of Arequipa (a region to the south of Lima) with prawns, green potatoes (?), choclo (a sweet corn), and, well, I don’t know what else.  Which has actually been a theme of my culinary experience since arriving in Lima….I don’t know what I’m eating, but I know it’s delicious.

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Prepared fresh!

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I’ve never quite figured out how to eat those things.

 

#2: (Yes, this is going to take a while….hope you’re comfortable!)  Cerdo con pastel de papa.  (Translation: pork with potato cake).

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I don’t have a picture of this one, but here’s a pic of me eating it :)  We couldn’t find a table, because there were so many people, but then a woman comes up to us and goes, “Would you like to sit in the tourist area?”  We say no because we thought we had to pay, but it was free.  Weird.  Meanwhile, my friend is insisting as we go in, “No!  We are NOT tourists!  We live here!”  Ha.

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It says, “Reserved, Tourists Mistura 2011.”  Hmmmm.  They also brought free Coke to our table…I was thinking, “Is this drugged?”  But the event was legit, and later we learned that they were serving free Coke all through the plaza.

#3: Ceviche.  Raw fish in a sauce of onion/Peruvian lemon/other fresh and delicious ingredients served with sweet potato and choclo.

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#4: Pasta en salsa de Huancaina con pollo al anticucho.  (Pasta in Huancaina sauce) with pollo anticucho-style (Anticucho is cow’s heart…I haven’t tried it yet).

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#5: After that, we decided to go to the “Rincón de Pisco” (Pisco corner).  Pisco is alcohol very typical of Perú, I don´t really know much about it, except that the Peruvians are quite proud of it and consider it one of their national drinks (along with Inka Kola and chicha morado, but that´s a different story).

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Different mixed drinks with Pisco, we shared to try everything.

We spent a while walking through fair trade/organic coffee and chocolate markets, which included several samples.  One stand had “chocolate sushi:” white chocolate with lucuma (a fruit) ganache inside the roll.  They also had Pisco de Cacao, so good!
#6: This dessert, which shall remain nameless for now, because I do not remember the name.  Basically a rice cake with honey all through it.  The kind of thing that would make your dentist cry.

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Before moving on, we stopped by the bathroom, and waited in line for a good 20 minutes while they were cleaning.  When they opened the door, it was chaos.  There were a few (absolutely darling) little old women, I think from the mountains, here to sell their potatoes, who kept trying to cut in line.  And we let them.  As my friend said, “She just wanted it so bad…”  Then when we entered, a woman gave us our allotment of toilet paper (hope you didn’t need more!), and all the women in line are shouting “Adelante!” and “Rápido!” (“Move forward!”  “Faster!”).  It reminded me of the traffic in Lima…clearly, limeños don´t hesitate to use their voice when they lack a car horn.
We then moved on to what was probably the highlight of my day: a market with vendors from all over Perú selling their products.  Countless samples: honey, goat cheese, goat´s milk yogurt, milk from cactus and aloe, bread, potatoes, pisco, lamb, jam, fruit….the list goes on.  I bought a peanut-flavored goat´s milk ice cream cone, and I think I prefer regular ice cream, but the goat cheese was delish.  If I could have brought it back to the states with me, I would have bought some.

Why are there faces on the corn?  Good question.

As part of the IFSA program, I have to volunteer with an NGO (non-governmental organization) and write a research paper on it at the end of the semester.  I learned, on Google, about efforts the International Potato Center has been undertaking to improve the lives of campesinos (farmers) in the Andes, so Friday morning I went to the “Centro Internacional de la Papa” (papa=potato) in Lima and talked with a couple of the directors about how I could possibly help out with their mission this semester.  They told me I could help with things in the office, but suggested I talk with some of the potato farmers in this food festival to get more “hands-on” experience, and what do you know??  I already had my ticket for the festival.  That very afternoon.  Perfect.

I must admit, it was a little awkward….was I supposed to walk up to a stand where they´re marketing their native potatoes (there are over 3000 varieties of potato grown in Perú, more than any other country!) and ask to volunteer with them?  But, at one of the stands, I got into a conversation with a guy who lives in Lima and helps with promotion of the farmers’ potatoes in the Limean market, where prices are higher and, therefore, the farmers can earn more and improve their quality of life (much of the Andean population lives in poverty).  In fact, that’s why the campesinos were at this festival: to give limeños a chance to familiarize themselves with native potatoes, which are very unique!  We talked for 20 minutes or so, and he gave me his email and told me to write him and I could perhaps help him with his efforts, and also perhaps take a trip for a few days out to the Andes to see the production processes.  So I am VERY excited about that, and hoping that it works out.  I ended up buying a two-kilo bag of native potatoes from them (I thought that I should probably buy something…..) but only 5 soles (2 dollars)!  He gave me a recipe for a “potato cake,” so I think I’ll try making that.  I’ve certainly got plenty of potatoes.

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The campesino who sold me the papas!  Still had dirt on his hands…authentic 😉
Today, the guy I met there emailed me and asked if I could come help on Saturday!  He is going to give me traditional woman’s campesino clothes to wear (which I’m pretty sure are not going to fit me….)  This should be interesting.
After the market, we were all quite stuffed from sampling just about everything.  But we bought 20 soles worth of “food tickets” when we entered and still had 11 left.  Couldn’t let them go to waste, of course.  Which leads me to….
#7: Lasagna a la Huancaina con pechuga de pollo.  My favorite food is lasagna, and my favorite Peruvian sauce is Huancaina (it’s got ají amarillo chili peppers, cheese, milk, onion….and other things).  So when I saw “Lasagna a la Huancaina with chicken breast”, I jumped on that.  Not a very traditional dish but delicious nonetheless! (I need to find a synonym for “delicious”)
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And of course we shared our dishes; a friend got Tacu Tacu, which is a very traditional Peruvian dish of rice, beans, and beef (photo below).

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Yum.
After that, I still had 5 soles of food tickets burning a hole in my pocket.  So I ordered the classic arroz con leche con mazzamora morada.  (Rice pudding with a pudding made out of some sort of purple fruit, served hot).  I’ve had it before, but it’s delectable (synonym!  Did you catch that?).  Here’s a pic from Google:

Okay, the blogger program won’t let me add the pic, but type “mazzamorra con arroz con leche” into google images and let your mouth water….

That’s all for now!

 

Hasta luego!

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