Expansion on Location: Peru

To keep you busy while I’m swamped with work and school and losing my mind in general (my last summer session class/paper is next Thursday, yay!), I’ve put together the first installment of a little series of food and expansion around the world because expansion knows no geographic limits πŸ˜€

I’ve mentioned a few times before that I spent August of 2008 volunteering in a Peruvian orphanage with infants through the program Mosoq Allyu. In fact, I departed JFK for Lima exactly one year ago on this very Friday morning. The three and a half weeks I spent in Peru were some of the best days of my life, and I honestly wish I could have stayed forever!

Holding Juan1

The trip, however, was not all baby baby baby. I made sure to include my other great love: food.

I stayed with a family in the “city” of Huancayo, and it certainly helped that Aurora, the mom, was an amazing cook and whipped up a completely new traditional Peruvian dish for lunch every single day! Sadly, I did not have the blog yet — or even a digital camera! — but I captured what I could of the food amazingness I saw everywhere.

On my very first day in Huancayo, I actually thought the trip was going to be a food bust. All I had eaten since arriving were approximately seven white rolls with jam (bread and jam, of all things, turned out to be the standard Peruvian breakfast). I stepped outside to go for a little exploratory walk, and this sign greeted me.

Year Of The Potato

Translation: National Congress of the Potato — International Year of the Potato, 2008

Have I mentioned that I hate potatoes?

Apparently, potatoes (along with wheat and quinoa) are one of the few sustainable crops in the super high Huancayan altitude. A later trip to the market brought the point home:

700 Potato Varieties

Things started looking up for me quickly after that initial shock wore off.

Exciting new produce:

Mayorista Fruit

Displaying my new finds, pepino and granadilla, on the roof of my family’s house:

Pepino Granadilla

Did you know that the most delicious bananas in the world are grown in the Peruvian jungle?


Grocery store loot: best sandwich cookies ever, red banana (best banana ever), membrillo (aka quince), baby oranges, candy bar, quinoa (!!), and mate de coca (aka cocaine leaf tea).

Grocery Loot

I was so excited to get this quinoa in the store. Even though it is one of the few things that could actually grow up in the mountains, quinoa isn’t a staple of the Peruvian diet where I was because of its bitter (though I don’t think so) taste. After white bread, white rice, white pasta, and white potatoes at every meal, I was thrilled to purchase my own personal stash of whole grains to use for my dinners in.

Rice is such a staple of the Peruvian diet, in fact, that there is a children’s song and dance called “Arroz con Leche” which actually refers to a delicious delicious rice pudding-esque dessert.

Ladrillera Arroz Con Leche

More Peruvian delicacies …

A meal of tamal de pollo, pastel de carne, and torta de gelatina from nearby Cafe Exquisitez:

Cafe Exquisitez

Crepes at Casa de Alan with my co-volunteers:

Casa De Alan







I accidentally ate the spicy pepper that came on top of the ceviche that I was not supposed to eat. I thought it was a tomato. As the tears were streaming down my face, the directors of the volunteer program warned me that I would feel the burn twice … and I did …

The crunchy corn that was served at restaurants instead of chips:


Drinking coconut water in the jungle:


Recognize this one of me eating the Peruvian specialty of cuy picante … aka spicy guinea pig?!

Guinea Pig

Chewing coca leaves while hiking a glacier to minimize altitude sickness:

Coca 2

Jugo de cana (pure sugar cane juice … cures bronchitis, asthma, anemia, arthritis, kidney, prostate):

Jugo De Cana

Pisco sour (pisco brandy, lime juice, sugar, egg whites):

Drinky Drink

Zoom on the raw egg white deliciousness:

Drinky Drinkzoom

I wish I had pictures of everything I ate because everything really was blog-worthy. Whenever I travel to new places with regional cuisine, I throw caution to the wind nutrition-wise in favor of trying as much authentic food as possible. This plan worked out beautifully in Peru, as I was literally a bottomless pit due to my persistent case of “traveler’s sickness,” as they call it. I always had room for more πŸ˜€

What is your favorite regional cuisine?

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12 thoughts on “Expansion on Location: Peru

  1. fitforfree says:

    LOVE the photos from Peru!!! What an awesome experience that must have been.
    I wish I had more photos of the food in India — I didn’t have a digicam then, either. There were plenty of those sandwich cookies!
    I agree w/ you: regional cuisine shouldn’t be sampled with the goal of getting a perfectly balanced, nutritious meal!


  2. mayapamela says:

    This was such a great post to read! My dad is chilean and I’m part Peruvian too ( though I’ve never been to Peru) Whig made this especially interesting to read. I love membrillo, it’s my dad’s favorite and he likes sandwiches of membrillo, ham, and cheese on a roll. We also do pisco sours in chile!


  3. verbalriot says:

    I love Mexican food and am thinking of going there just so I can eat tons and tons of authentic rice and beans and burritos πŸ™‚

    I love this post! I’ll also try anything when traveling!


  4. Michelle says:

    Wow, awesome pictures! This was such a fun post to read. Good luck with your class/work/not losing your mind. I understand totally, I’m in the same place right now.


  5. RunToFinish says:

    oh wow I would love to go there some day, so many places too see and so little vacation time!!

    hmm my fav cuisine…gosh I dunno I lvoe all food but seriously I could survive on fruit, PB and cereal


  6. Hallie says:

    That looks like an amazing trip! I love most types of ethnic food….Indian, Greek, Mexican, Vietnamese…and they are all so different that I don’t think I could pick a fave!


  7. Allison says:

    UM – is that sweater in the first picture from gap? because i totally have it! πŸ™‚

    AWESOME TRIP! πŸ™‚ I’m totally jealous – as usual πŸ˜‰


  8. Gina says:

    The closest thing I have eaten that is even partially “ethnic” would be my grandma’s lasagna! She was Italian and her lasagna tasted like it was straight form Italy. Other than that, the foods I eat are “ethnic” by USA standards, as I haven’t been as lucky as you to travel anywhere else! Your photos are awesome (I hate potatoes too) and the foods that you encountered took marvelous. I see where you got your title picture from! Thanks for sharing your fantastic trip with us!


  9. Jessica says:

    I love all the world cuisines I’ve tried, which is pretty extensive. I definitely have a soft spot for Ethiopian and Thai, though.


  10. foodforfuel says:

    ahhh, this post was so fun to read! I love traveling and exploring different cuisines– I really like south american food a lot (fried plantains, yummm), but in recent years I’ve become OBSESSED with indian food.


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