In my last post I talked a little bit about how the Peruvian diet is extremely carb heavy. They eat potatoes and other starches like they’re legit going out of style. Now, I love potatoes and rice but it can get old really quick. Plus, not only do the starches come with every single meal but the portions here are HUGE. I have asked my family to give me less food or told them that I get full fast but the portions that show up on my plate are almost always Super-Size Me-esque. They’re so huge that I have resorted to hiding food when my host family isn’t looking — in my pocket, in my purse or book bag, and there have even been times where I have hidden food in my bra..don’t judge. Sometimes, I truly wonder how Peruvians don’t seem to have a problem with morbid obesity. You would think that everybody here would look like they could be on that show My 600 LB life but oddly enough, that is not the case.
Anyway, this week I made a point of recording what I ate for every meal so that you all know just how much Peruvians love their carbs.
Breakfast: Desayuno is usually a light meal which I am thankful for because I’m hardly ever hungry when I first wake up. On weekdays I usually eat around 6:30 am before I leave to go to the training center at 7:00 am. I usually have Anise and Manzanilla (Chamomile) tea with bread or crackers. Sometimes there’s fried eggs – Fried eggs days are my fave.
Lunch: I eat my almuerzo at the training center. My host mother cooks it for me every morning while I am getting ready in the morning. Ninety nine percent of the time I have white rice with my lunch. The days that I don’t have rice usually are pasta days. Pasta days are usually the days that I starve through the entire afternoon because the pasta that my host mom makes, unfortunately, is not the business. It usually is complimented with some dry beef and the sauce is some type of sauce that could never live up to my beloved marinara. This past Monday though, we got to have lunch the U.S. Ambassador to Peru which was really cool. I even got to sit right next to him.
Dinner: Dinner was definitely a step up from the unfortunate pasta. I had a plate full of rice, a piece of chicken and some pieces of potatoes. I was super hungry from not finishing my lunch so I ate all of it.
Breakfast: I had my manzanilla and for my daily dose of breakfast carbs I had crackers and butter. Very simple per usual.
Lunch: On Tuesday, I found that my Tupperware was full 3 pieces of chicken an white rice. By this time in the week, my enthusiasm for rice had waned and I found myself picking over my food. I didn’t finish it but I will say that the chicken was on point.
Dinner: Dinner on Tuesday was great because we had leftovers and leftovers almost always means smaller portions. Amen! I had mashed potatoes, rice, a little bit of beef and onions, and a bowl of what I’m pretty sure was Ramen Noodles.
Breakfast: I skipped breakfast this day because I had to wake up super early to go to a small sierra town (the sierra is the Peruvian highlands) called Callahuanca.
Lunch: Lunch on Wednesday was great because I was able to eat at a small restaurant in Callahuanca. I tried a dish called Arroz a la Cubana and let me tell you, I think I found my new favorite Peruvian dish. It was so delicious yet so simple. Arroz a la Cubana is simply, rice which one fried egg, and two huge fried plantains on top. Maybe it was the plantains that I love so much or maybe I was just really hungry from not eating breakfast. All I know is that Arroz a la Cubana is heavenly. We get to go to Callahuanca every Wednesday for the rest of training and I will certainly be looking forward to my weekly rendezvous with my new favorite dish.
Dinner: For dinner I had fried eggs mixed with cauliflower and a plate full of rice. Its called Torrejas de Coliflor – its also very simple but really good. I was so content with all of my meals on Wednesday that I didn’t hide or throwaway any food!
Breakfast: It was fried eggs day! I even was thrown a bone and received zero starches with my breakfast. And as always, I had my manzanilla tea.
Lunch: I didn’t remember to take a picture this day and now I can’t recall what I ate. However, I’m certain there was rice involved.
Dinner: Thursdays dinner consisted of chick peas and fried eggs over rice. I was super hype when I saw the chick peas but that quickly died when I realized how hard they were. I struggled through this one and eventually some of the peas found their way into my pocket. Sad story, I know.
I forgot to take pictures on Friday but I do remember that those same hard chickpeas showed up to haunt me in my lunch. For dinner me and some of the other trainees went to a restaurant after training. I ate what seemed like a mountain of French fries and two fried plantains for dinner.
Usually weekends are hard for me because I don’t have the luxury of openly throwing out the food I don’t eat at lunch. So like a good soldier, I fight the good fight to finish all of my food during the weekends. And friends, this isn’t a war for the weak of heart, stomach, or bowels.
However, I skipped breakfast to meet up with my friends to climb one of those crusty Andean Foothills I was telling you about. It took about 3 hours and afterwards we were parched and hungry so we went to the neighboring city called Chosica to grab a bite to eat. I tried a new dish call Arroz Chaufa which is basically Chinese fried rice with a Peruvian touch – Chifa is Peruvian Chinese food but that’s another story for another post. For now, let’s just say that if Chifa had an ugly cousin it would be the fried rice we’re used to getting at American Chinese take out joints. Arroz Chaufa is worlds better.
For dinner, my host mom was too tired to cook a large meal so all we had was a bowl of soup and agua de manzanilla which is very similar to the tea but just prepared differently. Its also thicker than regular tea. She kept apologizing for the “lack of food” but inside I knew the Peruvian culinary gods were sparing my stomach this weekend.
Breakfast: On Sundays my host mom’s father goes out and buys tamales for breakfast. Honestly, I don’t hate tamales but I also do not love them. They’re also so extremely filling, its uncomfortable. But once again, like a good soldier, I fought the good fight… but lost because I could only get through half before my stomach could take no mas.
Lunch: It is only fitting that the last day of the week was finished off with Panchamanca – the mother of all starchy dishes. Panchamanca is a food traditionally eaten in the sierra and cooked in the ground. In Quechua it literally means “earth pot.” The dish existed during the time of the Incan Empire and has evolved over time. My Panchamanca was cooked in a pot and it consisted of camote (sweet potato), papas (regular potatoes), some strange bean called abas, choclo (Andean corn with humongous, starchy kernels), rice and chicken. It was my first time having Panchamanca and I really liked it, although I did catch a mean case of “The Itis” from it.
Overall, I really have been enjoying Peruvian cuisine. But some days, the task of eating mountains of rice and potatoes in daunting. The other day I dreamt about bacon and Dunkin Donuts coffee and I woke up with a dramatic sadness in my heart because I knew the only thing waiting for me was bread and tea – Sigh. So for all of you reading this back home, the next time you have any quintessentially American food, hold me and my starch filled stomach in your heart.