Friday, December 21, 2012

Cuy and Coca Tea in Cuzco

There were two things that I wanted to try while traveling in Peru, and they were cuy (guinea pig) and coca tea. Before the trip I had read many accounts of trying this delectable little beast, but they were inconclusive. Most of them consisted of how terrible it was. Many of the blogs I read had scathing comments from animal rights advocates stating that is was wrong to eat a pet. Here's the thing though. In Peru, the guinea pig is raised to be eaten just like a cow or chicken in many other places, so I was willing to give it a try.  

Since I was the leader of my group, it was my duty to provide a cultural adventure for all those who dared to try it. I wasn't feeling very daring, but hey, you only live once. After talking to Victor (our fearless and fabulous guide) about the best place to eat the little creature, I was on a mission that I wasn't going to be talked out of. I rallied the troops and managed to get many people interested including people from the other groups.

In just a short while, three little "pigs" arrived at our table. They were all dressed up in a pepper hat seated on a bed of veggies. The presentation was beautiful, but let's be honest here, it was still a guinea pig. I always wanted one as a pet, and now I was going to eat one. There wasn't much meat on the little guy, but from the pieces I had (don't ask which pieces because I'm not even sure) it wasn't half bad. Sure it had a gamey flavor, but it was more like eating rabbit than anything else. I went back for seconds, and I even finished up the parts that no one wanted. What a great day for travel!

The coca tea doesn't have much of a story behind it, but it is worth mentioning. Since the altitude of Cuzco is about 11,000 ft., many people can get altitude sickness. This can present in various forms including fatigue, headaches, and an overall blah feeling (yes, blah is a medical term). One of the best things to do to combat this unpleasantness is to stay hydrated. And one of the best ways to stay hydrated in Cuzco is by drinking coca tea (made from the coca leaf). It can be found at any hotel in the area and most places you may visit. I liked it immediately, but it is an acquired taste (a pungent herbal flavor). I had a cup every time I walked through the lobby of the hotel and one before bed. It worked like a charm. I felt amazing the whole time I was there. No altitude problems for me.

Since I am on the topic of food and beverage, I must mention my favorite Peruvian cocktail the Pisco Sour. This drink is made with the Peruvian brandy called Pisco, sugar, lime juice, and egg whites. The egg whites give it the frothiness at the top. It sort of tastes like a margarita with a bit more bite. It is an amazing accompaniment to a nice bowl of ceviche.