My, this has been a hard post to start, and equally difficult to finish. Peru, in one word, was big.
From Colombia, I flew to Lima and my friend Silvanna met me for dinner. She introduced me to her favorite Peruvian dish, called Causa. For me, it truly epitomizes the country’s cuisine. Causa is a bundle of electrifying colors and textures that you delightedly devour first with your eyes. La Sirena d Juan in Mancora makes an incredible causa. Their version is a juxtaposition of briny onions and spiky-hot peppers, and silky, soothing layers of potato and avocado. Warm, lightly pan fried shrimp. A signature mark of aji amarillo sauce. Flecks of cilantro. Complete. Culinary. Nirvana. Thank you, Silvanna, for your gifts: your company and your introduction to this food that I haven’t been able to stop thinking of since.
My cousin, Tippy, met me in Lima the next day. We journeyed eighteen hours by bus to Mancora, a town on the Northern coast of Peru.
Meet part of our eighteen-hour-long view. Most of it, anyway.
Tippy and I spent a week in Mancora. We laughed and ate more than anything, but equally. We stayed on the beach and let the sun do its rejuvenating dance. Mancora is a big fishing spot with bigger waves that attract surfers more than anyone. But us? We lounged. The tide was unseasonably high because of the Super Moon, and so the streets in the main part of town were flooded for part of the time. We cooked with Emilio, the chef at one of our hotels. He taught us how to make Causa with tuna and a sort of paella with every kind of edible sea creature you can think of. From Rossana, the manager of the hotel, we learned how to make Pisco Sours and tasted chicha morado, a drink made from purple corn of Peru. We spent our last night in Punta Sal, a smaller beach just North of Mancora, but closer to Tumbes, where we took a plane back to Lima. And then, it was time for Tippy to go. I was sad to say goodbye to her. We had a really, really great time. We’ve got lots of ideas to try in the kitchen back in Minnesota, and I can’t wait.
And then my week of traveling solo began.
Before I wrote big as a word to describe my time in Peru, I tried out significant, formidable, mind-blowing, and bewildering. But big seemed better, and although it was all of those other words, combined, it was just exactly, simply, that. I met unforgettable people from every corner of the globe. I tasted the most mind-blowing cuisine of my life, and a few days later, I spontaneously learned to cook some of that incredible cuisine, a dream of mine since before I knew just how much I would like it. I took photos of llamas grazing around Machu Picchu and visited a Quechua community in the middle of the mountains, where we spent a day among the most gorgeously-spirited people I have ever met. The day was rainy, and so the walkways of the community were muddy. When we left, it was dark. One of the women took my hand to lead me down to our van and wouldn’t let go until it was time for me to climb inside. I tested my Spanish and learned that I trust my instincts more than I thought. I lost my ATM card and subsequently, a bit of self-confidence. I cursed forty-seven times in one minute, a personal record. The next day, when I arrived in Cusco and made my last minute arrangements to go to Machu Picchu alone, I got it back. (A bit of self-confidence, that is. I’m still waiting for my ATM card….). I acquired a bout of food illness which rendered me pathetically to a chair in the Lima airport for over ten hours. But I made it to Buenos Aires to meet my friends Kyle and Agustina. It’s been really good to see them.
I have more photos and more stories, but my computer is in a mood ever since we left Peru. A blue mood. A blue screen mood, if we’re going to get into specifics. I think I need to let it rest its chops for a bit, and hopefully, soon, it’ll be back to its old workhorse-of-a-self.