“So do you know which meat Peruvians mainly eat?” asked Margot the tour guide.
“Chicken?” I guessed.
“No,” said Margot.
“Alpaca?” Chris said.
“Nope,” said Margot.
It was clear that Chris and I were not even in the ballpark of guessing the popular Peruvian food correctly, so she offered up the answer.
Those furry little animals that American children like to keep in cages in their bedrooms. They are played with and pet like any other household pet.
Guinea Pigs are in the rodent family and look a lot like a rat when stripped of their fur and roasted up over open flame.
The South Americans have been eating guinea pigs since 5,000 BC. They don’t eat much meat other than the guinea pig. Many Peruvians have entire rooms dedicated to raising guinea pigs. They let the little rodents live for three months before they break their necks and throw them on the grill.
As we drove along the long, dusty road through the Sacred Valley, we looked to the right and women were waving a cooked guinea pig on a stick, advertising it for sale. As we looked to the left we saw the same thing. Smoke billowed from the chimneys of the shacks – the smoke of guinea pigs being cooked.
We have hot dog on a stick, the Peruvians have guinea pig on a stick. I believe the guinea pig on a stick is actually a less disgusting choice as far as meals on a stick go. At least we know that guinea pig on a stick is fresh and we know what kind of meat it is.
“Oh you must try the guinea pig while you are in Peru!” said Margot. “It is really delicious.”
“Sure I will,” I said, sounding much more willing than I actually was.
“Ummm OK,” said Chris with a chuckle, sounding a lot less convincing.
Margot told us a story that was disturbing. She said when she was a little girl, she was always given the head of the guinea pig for dinner each night. She was really mad about it for a while, because who wants to be given the head of anything to eat, especially a guinea pig? Then she learned to love the head. She would eat the brains and the eyeballs. She told us that the small bones in the head were delicious, offering a nice crunch with each bite.
After that story, any chance that I would be trying guinea pig was squashed. Looks like I would be eating a lot of vegetables and quinoa on this trip to Peru.
Just feeling a bit curious about the guinea pig after my drive down guinea pig lane, I decided to google it. How could an animal considered a friendly pet in American homes be the top food of choice in Peru?
The first thing I saw was a headline “Police Respond To 911 Call of Man Grilling Guinea Pig in Park.” There is a picture of a South American man with a smile on his face and a guinea pig on his stick. He looks a bit amused that he’s just out there trying to have a meal from his native land and the police are questioning him.
So if you are taking a trip to Peru, I think you should try guinea pig. It’s just the right thing to do to immerse yourself in the culture. Then let me know how it is. I’ll be eating chicken.
Until next time, the mothership is signing off.