This is both the best and worst time to write this post, considering I am just recovering from a nasty bout of salmonella (o algo así) that I picked up during our tour of the Sacred Valley this past weekend. Nevertheless, I’ve been thinking about this post for a while–and sometimes, just getting my ideas down on paper (or somewhere in the virtual world) and out of my head helps me feel so much better.
Almost every realtor would argue that the most important aspect of any piece of property is “location, location, location.” But I would argue that food (yes, food) is of equal importance. Getting to know a culture’s food, in my opinion, is just as important as learning about their geography, art, religion, and politics. Food is, after all, closely related to all of the parts and pieces that make up culture as a whole. We have spent a great deal of time in my conversation class talking about food: the best restaurants in Cusco, the most exotic thing we have eaten, why cuy is so popular in Perú, what people from our region of the U.S. tend to eat, etc. It’s a very popular talking point because hey, we all have to eat, and who doesn’t like food? (Admittedly, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with food yesterday. Between my bouts of vomiting, I spied my freshly purchased Peruvian cookbook taunting me from the chair next to my bed. I was so disgusted by the pictures on the cover that I threw the book across the room. The next morning when I felt better, I found the poor guy lying in the corner and after setting him on the shelf, apologized for my dramatics. Sometimes we do crazy things when we’re sick!) In addition to “location, location, location,” we also place great importance on “food, food, food.” When I think of my home in Florida, I think of the delicious mariscos I have the privilege of eating because I live so close to the beach. When I think of my other home, Chicago, I think of the city’s unrivaled pizza–it’s true that the crust just doesn’t rise the same in Florida!
I love trying new foods and here in Cusco, I have eaten many delicious Peruvian dishes that I can’t wait to make once I get home. Part of the reason this stomach virus took me by surprise is because usually my stomach is extremely strong. I am not going to let the past couple of days cast a shadow over my gastronomical experiences in Perú, however. I know I would definitely enjoy living here because of the beautiful mountains and Inca ruins (location, location, location!), and because the Peruvian cuisine is absolutely delicious (food, food, food!). Today I am feeling much better–I can look at my cookbook without feeling like throwing it across the room, and earlier I went out to lunch with my friends from class and was able to eat a little bit of chicken soup. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be feeling even better, and I’ll be able to continue my foodie adventures in Perú!
Back home, I sometimes make fun of my boyfriend, Bardia, for taking pictures of his meals. With an exasperated sigh, I exclaim, “Again?!” But there is something truly awesome and powerful about capturing my trip through the food I’ve eaten. Traditional dishes are evocative of times gone by, as well as times to come. Like I said before, we all have to eat, and what we eat inevitably becomes a part of us. This is why the people in my conversation class can talk for two hours straight about food, because it’s something so connected to our beings. Trying food from different cultures gives my life more richness–more life, even. And yeah, I may encounter some bumps along the way but…¡se vale la pena!