Sunday, October 14, 2007

Peru Day One

I started my first day in Peru by brushing my teeth with sparkling water and then going to breakfast while Barry Manilow serenaded the dining room. I ended my first day by listening to Copacabana, also by Barry, riding back in a taxi to the hotel.

In between, I donned an apron for a culinary tour of Lima. The apron was to identify the people in our group, which really wasn´t necessary, but we all worn big flashy white aprons, like a bunch of cooking groupies, all around town. First we went to a market, outdoors but exceedingly clean, neat and organized. We looked at all the fish and then the produce. Peru has some unusual fruits I´ve never seen or tasted. Some are related to passionfruit or quince. We got to tast a cherimoya, which looks and feels like an alien egg pod. It is large, hard and green with big scale looking things. It was very delicious, unlike any fruit I´ve had in taste or texture.

Next, the 15 of us, with our tour guide Rosa and her assistant Jonaton got on a huge motorcoach and cruised to the famous ceviche restaurant in Lima called Calbina. At the restaurant, they howed us how to prepare the ceviche. The juice that the ceviche is marinated in is called leche de tigre, or milk of the tiger. They also serve it like a shot in a little glass (without the fish in it). Then we went to an old bar, which is quite famous in Lima. It was a small series of rooms with tables and chairs and lots of old framed photos on the walls. Down the street and around the corner, still with our aprons on, we went to another bar where the bartender demonstrated how to make a pisco sour. Pisco is a distilled product smiliar to brandy, 40 to 50% alcohol (80 to 100 proof). The recipe included lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white. The bartender worked the shaker and we all had a taste of the pisco. Then the bartender indicated that I should shake the next one. After having already had a pisco sour (and they are SOUR), I thought sure, why not! I stepped up to the bar, took the shaker in both hands, and proceeded to go into what I´m sure was a very cute little dance. I forgot that the lids to shakers need to be held down. Pisco sour sprayed all over me and several people standing near me who didn´t jump away fast enough.

From there we went to a restaurant for lunch, a creole place with a buffet. I normally don´t like buffets. This lunch was pretty good though. It cost $22/person. Many people in Lima make about $300/month, so this is a restaurant for tourists and the wealthy. Our tourguides would never have been able to eat at such a restaurant but we invited them to join us. Remember the name Rosa, you will see her again in my blog.

Later still, we went to a huge supermarket called, strangely, Wong. I´m not sure if we still had the aprons at this point. It turns out that the many Chinese immigrants who came to Peru ran small markets. This one grew into a giant sensory overload. After such a long day, it was overwhelming. Wong is like a combination of international market, Target, and a department store, with a Nordstrom piano player and lots of people in uniforms walking around with food for people to taste; sandwiches, ice cream, chorizo sausages. I wandered around with a glazed expression. I really just wanted to buy some water and fruit to keep in my room. Everything all of a sudden took so much effort, reading labels in Spanish, converting soles to dollars. It is really hard to shop in a foreign country. I bought a cherimoya and went back to the hotel, listening to Barry Manilow in the taxi on the way, to get rid of the shirt with pisco all over it.

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