eating andean

Home now two weeks and I am noticing how consistently I am putting potatoes in everything!  LOL. My usual brown rice ‘bowl’ of sautéed veggies now contains chunks of fresh pan roasted potatoes as well…

If this isn’t the most obvious indication of my integration of a Peruvian way of eating, I don’t know what is!  I’ve always loved potatoes but have developed a prudence to including them in my diet. I understand that combining this particular starchy vegetable with proteins and other kinds of starchy foods is not recommended for optimal digestion, and I am continually experimenting with ways to include fresh potatoes with meals that can respect this fact…

However, there is no avoiding it in Peru.  Potatoes seem to be served with everything and anything.  And after a few days I simply surrender, settling in to enjoying all the myriad ways I get to consume them each day. There are the pan roasted potatoes that come with the fresh ‘salmon’ trout (that I have also discovered is the only fresh fish available at this time).  And in this particular restaurant these potatoes actually occupy the center of the plate, and it is the fish, cleverly skewered around fresh zucchini, that is placed as if a garnish around the edge of the plate!

I have many meals featuring this wonderful trout, and no matter how it is served, such as in this delicious ceviche style salad, the potatoes are there, several varieties in fact, some sliced and some diced, and marinated along with the just cooked fish…

Here is one of my favorite combinations of the trout and potatoes,  an ‘andean salad’ that is described in the menu as “native potatoes, green beans, paris cheese in cubes, white, red and black quinoa grains, fava beans, golden slices of salmon trout, yellow pepper vinaigrette of citrus and mint…

….where the potatoes are simply boiled and sliced whole into thick meaty slabs, the integrity and freshness wholly present in this form.

And then at the smaller local restaurants, the trout always comes with both potatoes AND rice too!

There are 3800 – 4000 varieties of potatoes in Peru.  I easily see dozens of them at the huge local outdoor market we go to for the express purpose of Molly learning how to say many of these varieties in Quechua…and here she is with her prize bagful of ‘qhompis’ potatoes after quite a conversation with a local vendor about the different choices…

…which we then cook in a variety of ways for the next few days in her little apartment kitchen along with lots of the other fresh produce bought that day…

What’s in the pot?  Quinoa soup with potatoes of course!!

When we arrive at the christening on the last day of my visit, we are immediately served a huge bowl of chicken soup that has two different kinds of whole potatoes, a large piece of fresh yucca, and a large chicken piece, all floating in a rich broth with rice and fresh herbs.  It is daunting to consider at first, all this food in one dish and despite whatever glimmer of doubt I have about eating all this, I watch how the elderly woman across from me easily and confidently works her way around the contents of this soup, eating the vegetables first, slowly and with focused intent, and then the flavorful broth, and then finally the chicken right down to the bone.  I follow along, Molly translating for me what each piece is as the women across the table educate me in spanish as to the names of the potatoes and how fresh the yucca is, and every bite is savored!  Later I realize that the ease in polishing off this bowl of soup is contained both in the slow sensuous way it is eaten (as much with fingers as with a spoon) AND the sequence in which it is eaten, starchy vegetables first, grains second, and meat last, following a classic and time held theory of food combining that is compared to a ‘digestive highway’ and eating meals starting with the easiest to digest first followed by the more complex to avoid a ‘food traffic’ jam.  i.e., begin with water or fruit juice, then soups that are not cream based, then green leafy non-starchy vegetables, then starches and starchy vegetables, then proteins.  And I realize hours after eating this soup (even the chicken that I typically don’t eat), this way, that I feel great!

I just finish steaming some fresh string beans of the season, both yellow and green, and have boiled some of the fresh yukon gold potatoes, slice some gorgeous little orange sweet peppers, halve some plump ruby red cherry tomatoes, and clean and crisp romaine and red leaf lettuce, all found at the farmer’s market a few days ago.  Remembering the beautiful andean salad  that remains still as a highlight of my culinary experience in Peru, I peel and slice the whole cooked potatoes and arrange them on top of the layered lettuce, beans and peppers and tomatoes (w/ a little sliced turkey for meat eating Ben) in the two bowls that will be lunch for us today…

We each add our own dressing and carry our bowls out to the porch and enjoy a leisurely time of eating this meal together, one bite at a time…

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