So during training, there was a select few of us who were obsessed with snacking [cough cough Brit, Amanda Snack, Brielle, Katy…]. It was stress relief. Training was constant and overwhelming and nothing eases your nerves quite like a Sporade and a bag of Choco-Travesuras. Or in Katy’s (or should I say Meat Patty’s) case, it was fried up street meat. Oh man and were those Choco-Travesuras good. In Chosica there were also these bomb sandwich places where, especially after a long night, you could get a 75 cent pulled chicken sandwich topped with French fries and a heaping amount of different sauces. Delicious.
I love street food. Love it. When Charlotte, Loretto, Lindsay, Nick and I (I guess I’ll include Arjun in there too, even though he was always MIA) were in Chile together for study abroad, the street food fests were out of control. Omnomnom. In Chile they make these amazing sweet potato based fried dough cakes, Sopaipillas, and, randomly, also make really good egg rolls. And in Chile I actually lost weight! Portion control!
But now I’m in site. And I wish I was snacking. But if I snacked like I did during Training or in Chile, I wouldn’t have room in my belly for anything else.
That’s cause any time you go for a walk here, you’re sure to be invited to something or another. Yesterday it was six apples, breakfast, and lunch, the day before that it was a cachanga, a fried pastry the size of my face, and a plate of chicken feet. If it were up to me, I wouldn’t be eating any of this.
But… in Peru, it’s considered extremely rude to reject food. So much so that a good deal of Training is teaching us not to refuse food, and in very extreme situations, how to reject it politely (which usually entails still eating it).
Truthfully, it is a pretty nice tradition. People are so so so good at sharing here. If they just went to the store and bought fruit, and on their way home they see you, they offer you not just one, but a whole armful of bananas. But there is also the expectation of this sharing, which is much harder for us gringos to adapt to…
For instance: I love Ritz crackers here. I’ve never really paid them any mind in the past, we’ve always have a box of them at home, but I’ve mostly ignored them all my life. But Ritz crackers in Peru. Ask any volunteer. There is something about them… I don’t know if it’s how they package them, making them super fresh, if the formula here is different, or if it’s simply that they remind me of home, but I’m OBSESSED. So I go to the store and buy my Ritz crackers, and if I forget to hide them in my backpack and I end up talking to anyone on my way home, I have to share them. This sounds selfish, but case in point, I once took two Ritz crackers out of the package (which I had been planning to eat as my breakfast), offered some to a group of women from my town, and the whole package disappeared before I could eat any more.
I wished this would work with almuerzo (lunch). It’s the biggest meal here, and while Peruvian food is off the chain, portion control is non-existant. Meals in the campo are generally served on one of those huge pasta bowl plates – half the plate is generally covered in a mountain of rice, and the other half with a mountain of the main dish (usually, or always if you’re Keren, consisting of potatoes). And then you either get soup before this, or a huge bowl of mazamorra (campo pudding) afterwards. And if you’re really unlucky you get all three.
At least my host mom is a dank cook (Grandma, dank means really, really good). I consistently tell her that I would probably eat a rock if she cooked it. [Funny side note, you can buy dehydrated potatoes in the market that, no joke, look exactly like stones]. So of course I’ll eat if she offers it to me. Problem is, it’s way too much food. And I’m gaining weight like crazy. And it sucks, because I don’t even want to be eating all this food. Why can’t I be gaining weight from my own lack of self control?!
I’m running more and more, trying to balance out all the food I’m always invited to. I try telling people, “Just a little, liiiiiittle bit.” And I know that the fact that I’m being invited to all this food means that they care for me, which is awesome, but dude. This has got to stop.
And so, I present to you, the Ali Foley Peace Corps Peru Campo Diet:
1) Tell everyone you will cook almost all your own meals. Never actually do it because you’ll still be invited to every meal.
2) When you are still invited to every meal, ask for just a taste, a teeny tiny bit. You can always use the excuse that you already cooked yourself lunch (even though it’s a huge lie).
3) Before they can ask if you want more or give you a plate of mazamorra, overly exaggerate how full you are while repeating the phrase “pacha junta, pacha muuuy junta” (stomach full, stomach veeery full).
4) Never buy snacks in site. You will either be disappointed because you had to give them all away or you will never have room for the food that you’re about to be invited to. Remember to thank God that there are no Choco-Travesuras or Princesas in my town.
5) Try to resist the chocolate chip cookies at California Café in Huaraz. Do not allow yourself to make a special trip to Huaraz on their behalf. Seriously, Ali, don’t do it.
And, since you might be curious as to what kind of food I’m actually eating, some of my favorite Peruvian dishes (thus far):
-Pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken served with French fries and salad… still on the quest to find better pollo a la brasa in Peru than Pollo Rico… ironic).
-Ceviche (raw fished cooked in the acidity of lemon juice…)
-ChoCho (definitely my favorite campo snack, sort of like a soy bean, but way more delicious, its actually a weed here in Peru. Super high in protein and low in calories.)
-Pallares (also a delicious bean, like a fava bean, yum)
-Tuna salad thing (My host mom makes this great plate of food when we have tuna. Tuna salad here is just canned tuna mixed with lemon and red onion – its super good and healthy. Then she serves along side a beet and carrot salad… and rice and potatoes, but it’s a delicious combo all together.)
-Utzururu (a breakfast soup made with eggs, cilantro, and, surprise, potatoes. Delicious.)
-Yuyo (a leafy-green weed found in the fields or in the river… cooked kind of like collard greens, its gotta be super nutricious, and its bangin)