|For one month, Awamaki was lucky enough to host 15 students from Lakeside High School in Seattle, Washington to come down and volunteer with us over the course of three weeks. A team of them were able to create some blog articles for us about various aspects of their experiences, this is one of their finished products!
Before I came to Peru, my first thought of Peruvian food was “potatoes.” Living in a homestay in Bandolista, a small town outside of Ollantaytambo, my perception of Peruvian food drastically changed for the better. I now understand, after only a couple days, that Peruvian food is as diverse and interesting as any culture I know.
I have been living in a homestay with my two parents, three brothers, and two sisters. Our three story home sits upon a dirt hill, overlooking the brightly colored town of Ollantaytambo. The village is alive with smiling faces and noisy roosters, an endearing combination. My first night staying with my family was also my first time eating with them. I had heard that my host mother would serve a pile of food to the family, and that it was most respectful to try and finish it all. What I encountered was more than a pile – it was a mountain. The plate was so full of steaming stir-fry and rice that I was afraid the whole plate would collapse underneath the weight of it all. The stir-fry consisted of fried potatoes, green beans, chicken, tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro. As I watched my host siblings gobble up the food and ask for seconds, I was astounded at where the food went, and my stomach churned as I tried to take just one more bite.
The food I have been served at every meal is some of the simplest, yet most delicious food that I have ever eaten. I know now that stir-fries are common in my homestay, because feeding five children, two adults, plus myself, is hard and long work. Not only is time a considerable factor in cooking, but there is also an aspect of pride and admiration. Every time I tell my host mother that her cooking is delicious, her face lights up and a huge smile grows from each cheek. After interviewing my host mother, I learned that she uses all her own produce, from growing wheat, potatoes and fava beans in her garden to raising chickens, ducks, and guinea pigs. I can see all the plants in the garden, when my host brother and I accidentally kick the soccer ball into them, as well as hearing the roosters crow at six in the morning to serve as a natural alarm clock.
One of my favorite dishes is served at lunchtime, called sopa de quinoa in spanish, or quinoa soup. Coming back from a long day, this soup is guaranteed to warm your body. When I first ate this soup, the surprising flavor of the mint hit my tongue with great satisfaction, and I immediately deemed it one of my favorite meals. The ingredients are:
– fava beans
The food I have been served in my homestay in Bandolista is a display of Peruvian food everywhere. The sopa de quinoa is common in the region, and the stir-fries and curries are a staple of Peruvian culture. Although potatoes are a large part of Peruvian cuisine, I now understand that there are also so many more components to a great Peruvian meal, and my appreciation for the food has increased drastically in the time that I’ve been here. In my time in Peru, I have learned that the local food is a reflection of the people: warm, inviting, and comforting.