Archive for March, 2011

Ceviche, History’s Treasure

By Walter Coraza M.

Translation by David Knowlton

Ceviche from Rio Mar, Cuzco

Ceviche from Rio Mar, Cuzco

Exotic, exquisite, and yet sharp; that is how many describe ceviche.   But that is only one way. The dish has given much to talk about since it has been able to conquer even the most demanding palates of the whole world.  As a consequence it has been the subject of various books, and is spreading quickly throughout the globe.

To think of ceviche is to think about Peru. This dish of fish marinated in lime juice, in various inventive and fascinating forms as well as in its most basic and traditional way, has become the most famous food of contemporary Peru at the same time it enfolds in his creation and eating much of Peruvian cultural history. Read the rest of this entry

Neruda in Cuzco: Aftermath of Worlds Colliding

By David Knowlton

Restaurante La Chola, Cuzco, where Neruda Reportedly Ate

Restaurante La Chola, Cuzco, where Neruda Reportedly Ate

The shadows and sunshine of war even reached Cuzco in the early nineteen forties, when celebrated poet Pablo Neruda visited. The poet and those days are long gone, as is most of the generation that knew that time of war.

The Picantería “La Chola” where a plaque claims Neruda wrote while in Cuzco is also gone, though a new version has opened in the Casa Cartagena Hotel (Pumacurco 336). But the Machu Picchu about which he wrote still stands, and much of the dilemma of the Americas that filled Neruda’s writing can still be found. Read the rest of this entry

Rains Still Fall: Good Food Today in Cuzco

Fresh Corn with Cheese, a Cuzco Tradition

Fresh Corn with Cheese

By David Knowlton

The rains still fall in Cuzco, heavily; it is the time of abundance. Fresh produce is everywhere.

Though in the tropics and near to lowland fields where produce comes year round, still seasons matter in Cuzco. The harvest is beginning; Cuzco’s growing season is ending.

In places where supermarkets rule and produce lines up in rotund or angular perfection, seasons seem not to exist. If they have not gone to rest in boxes and cans, fruits and vegetables seem always the same. Read the rest of this entry

San Blas, Cuzco’s Gem

Cuesta de San Blas, Cuzco, Peru

Cuesta de San Blas, Cuzco, Peru

By Walter Coraza M.,

Translated and edited by David Knowlton

San Blas, one of the most famous neighborhoods of Cuzco, is its most picturesque and offers a complete array of services to the tourist, including good food. Not only does it contain streets of Inca origin that look like they belong in a story about Don Quixote’s Spain, it promises a wide range of hotels from the most pricey to the least expensive, a variety of cuisine, and a rich cultural life. Read the rest of this entry

Chicharron in Cuzco

Chicharron in Cuzco

Peru´s cuisine was honored Wednesday night, March 23, 2011, by the Organization of American States.  José Miguel Insulza, Sectretary General of the OAS, gave Peru´s cooking the first ever “Cultural Patrimony of the Americas Award” at a gala dinner in the organization’s Hall of the Americas in Washington D.C. as two important socioeconomic rivers joined in a rush. Read the rest of this entry

Waffles and Volunteer Realism, The Meeting Place

By David Knowlton

Waffles at The Meeting Place, Cuzco

A rainy day in Cusco, and I needed a cafe with Wi-Fi. But it is March, so the place I often go–Cross Keys–was closed, probably for a much needed vacation;  this is the low part of the tourist cycle.

My friends had mentioned a relatively new place up on the Plazoleta de San Blas that they had been wanting to try, so we hiked up the narrow stone walkway of the Cuesta de San Blas as rain drops fell around us and, on the other side of the flower gardens in the center of the little plaza, a sign bid us welcome. It simply said: “The Meeting Place.” Read the rest of this entry

Cuzco Coffee Beans, Rich and Aromatic

Cuzco Coffee Beans, Rich and Aromatic

A rich aroma reminiscent of chocolate and nuts pulls you in, when you open a bag of Machu PIcchu-Huadquiña coffee, before you ever add water.

This coffee from Cuzco, famous for its superb smell and taste, and well known in international coffee markets, gained another accolade this last Friday when, in a ceremony in the patio of Cuzco’s municipal building, the Peruvian government granted it a Denomination of Origin. Read the rest of this entry

Pollo a la Brasa, Urban Peru’s Favorite Food

By David Knowlton

Pollo a la Brasa from Los Toldos, Cuzco

Pollo a la Brasa from Los Toldos, Cuzco

Whole chickens slowly turn on a rack of spits that itself slowly makes a round over burning coals, or gas flame. This image saturates Peruvian cities, including Cuzco. Though it is not common in the tourist core–where whitewashed Spanish colonial buildings with orange tile roofs and carved wooden balconies shine in the sun above dark Inca walls of massive, finely carved stone — it fills the rest of Cuzco’s streets and shopping areas.

At lunch and dinner the many pollerías, as the places that specialize in pollo a la brasa (or chicken over coals) are called, are filled with Cuzco’s families devouring a fourth of a chicken on a mound of french fries, often with their hands.  A marketing study claimed this rotisserie chicken is Peruvians’ “favorite” food. 56 % of Peruvians reportedly prefer, when they eat out, to have pollo a la brasa. The other common alternatives are ceviche and Chifa. Read the rest of this entry

A Romance of Chinese in Peru: Chifa

By David Knowlton

Chifa: Pork with Pineapple

Chifa: Pork with Pineapple

It’s a romantic, historical epic — worthy of Peruvian-born, internationally famous author Isabel Allende’s blockbuster novels.  But it is not fiction, it is history; in brief, a complex tale that really covers multiple continents and many characters.

Chinese coolies came to Peru as indentured servants, around 100,000 of them between 1849 and 1874; now their descendants including some of the most successful Peruvians have formed a Chinese community, refreshed with ongoing immigration, that is different from that of other countries.  And, they founded and maintain a cuisine that is as Peruvian as any in this diverse country, even though it carries a strong charge from its origin in Chinese culture and ingredients. Read the rest of this entry

Cuzco, Scene of Rediscovery

Cuzco, Scene of Rediscovery

By David Knowlton

A new cuisine was born in Peru around 1986, at a time when democracy had returned, two guerrilla groups fiercely battled the State, and nationalism filled the air. Called Cocina Novoandina in Spanish, and either Novo Andean, or Nouveau Andean, or just New Andean cuisine in English, it thrust Peruvian cooking into a global arena, impacted the cooking of neighboring countries, and claimed the kitchens of most of Cuzco’s better restaurants.

Novo Andean Cuisine claimed Cuzco beginning in 2000, according to Rosario Olivas Weston in her beautiful and award winning book Cusco, el imperio de la cocina. Given the fourteen years between then and its birth,  this new cuisine germinated and grew elsewhere.

Read the rest of this entry

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