We had a really hard time starting our first post on Perú.
Its not that we don’t like Perú, we are actually growing to love it. Eva has begun to talk about living here for awhile as it presents such a beautiful and interesting culture, particularly when it comes to food. It’s that Perú seems to be a land of second, third and even more impressions.
When we arrived in Perú, it was early, about 5 am. Instantly we were chased through the airport by taxi drivers and other “informative” individuals that would not take no for an answer. The kind of people who wanted to help you use the ATM. The “information” booths informed us there is no metro or any public transportation, we have to use taxis (conveniently priced at $50 US).
Not quite believing this, we left the airport and found the bus stop which is actually the colectivo stop. If you have never anything of the sort, it is a wonder of chaos theory. Private vans run on a wing and a prayer roaring up at full speed, announcing their destinations with people jumping on while still moving, and firing off again. This all happens with some 25 vans occupying the same bus stop, weaving past each other within less than an inch. There is no other municipal bus system in Lima.
After some work, we found our way to Miraflores, the trendy tourist district below the central historical district of Lima. We were not immediately impressed as Miraflores felt to us like a funnel designed to drive us through to the tourist designated locations of Perú after wringing out what they could with 2 for 1 drinks.
But then we tried the food and Lima grew on us a little. Paellas, Ceviches and Pisco Sours only scratch the surface of what Perú has to offer.
Even better, a friend of the family, Elena, offered to show us around. We were introduced to the coastal districts of Chorrillos, Barranco and San Isidro.
For lunch, we went to Pescados Capitales, a play on words referring to the mortal sins. The food was rich and addictive, like a truly good sin.
We had sliced octopus in olive oil with a light tomato sauce and an olive sauce, stuffed and fried yucca for dipping, squid with an anticucho sauce (the highlight of our feast), and a seafood paella. Obligatory Pisco Sours (doubles!) complimented the flavors of our plates and our conversation. We finished with a whipped chirimoya (a local fruit) for dessert.
Pescados Capitales is only open at lunch, and although hip and packed, it is located in a rougher neighborhood. The restaurant, like Lima, takes a local to show you behind the scenes.
Its seems so strange that what seems to hurt Perú is it’s need to cater to and herd the tourist. Now, a few weeks into our trip here, we have found time and time again that there are wonderful experiences and food outside the designated “tourist” areas. The Peruvian people have also been so genuinely warm and friendly, albeit there are many aggressive peddlers. For all the stories of theft and danger we have heard before our arrival, the Peruvian people seem intent on our safety, advising us on how to avoid danger.
The depth and variety of Peruvian cuisine forces us to continuously rethink our impressions of the entire nation. The food is influenced by cultures as diverse as China, Africa, Europe and even ancient Inca culture, growing to a complex yet naturalized part of everyday life. With a difficult history, Peruvians are a resilient people. Forward thinking is shown in their love of aesthetics, beautifully manicured cities, and the people’s solidarity. Perú is a nation of contradictions, from its low per capita income to its social consciousness.
We came to Perú overwhelmed and near comatose, not knowing what to expect. The first day barely gave us our breath back but with each new impression, the country grows our curiosity.
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