Depending on your point of view you may find the Peruvian delicacy of roast guinea pig as a horrid way of treating our squeaking furry friends or just another local speciality to try. My friend Joanne decided to keep an open mind and give it a try on her trip to Peru.
In the town of Aguas Calientes, where Joanne was staying before her visit to Machu Picchu, the group stopped at the house of one of their guide’s relatives who had been brewing Chicha, the local maize beer. Apparently the chicha only keeps for a few days and so the villagers take it in turn to make the home brew, putting a red rag or plastic bag on a pole outside to let passers by know that it’s ready. Joanne tried both the red maize chicha which she thought tasted of strawberries and the yellow maize chicha which she found less appetising – the texture was a bit like an alcoholic smoothie.
As they were leaving the house, Joanne heard squeaking coming from the other side of the courtyard and when she enquired where the noise was coming from, was shown two stables full of guinea pigs running around. The first was full of fat little mummy guinea pigs, either pregnant or with their babies. The second stable was where the the guinea pigs were moved to fatten up before being sent to the great cooking pot in the sky.
Later, after she had come down the mountain from Machu Picchu, Joanne got to try out the local delicacy at a local restaurant as their guide had arranged for her group to have it as a starter to try. Beware! the Peruvians are very proud of their roast guinea pigs and can’t understand why anyone would not want to sample their local dish. It’s as natural to them as a Frenchman eating snails or an American eating a Big Mac.
The guinea pig arrived at the table looking as it it had been squashed flat by a rolling pin with a surprised expression and a pepper popped into it’s open mouth. It was stuffed with a mixture of spicy rice and vegetables and looked a bit like crispy duck but with a taste of chicken. The guinea pig was on a plate that was spun round and whichever piece ended up nearest to you was the bit you ate. Joanne was quite thankful that she got a leg rather than the head, which is considered the tastiest morsel although she found it quite bony.
She washed it down to a Pisco Sour and was pleased that the meat stew and potatoes that followed was a little closer to what she’d normally eat at home. So that was Joanne’s Christmas night dinner with a difference.
Are you one of those who tries every unusual food that’s going as part of the experience or do you stick to the familiar dishes that you’d eat at home? Would guinea pig be on your list of things to try?