During an internship we learn a lot about the professional surroundings in a different country. The reason that I’m in Peru right now is of course to gain some more knowledge about water management, but next to this I probably learn even more about living and being abroad in a different culture. While I am abroad, I try to learn as much as possible about the culture and I try to adjust where possible, without losing my own identity.
A really important part of the culture in Peru is food. Peruvians live to eat! Time is measured by whenever it is time to eat: it’s past breakfast, it’s an hour before lunch, let’s meet during coffee time, I’ll work till dinner. It is completely new for me to make a work appointment with this type of scale. Luckily food is not only used to scale the time!
Many students told me that they lost some weight during their internship. Well I think it will be the opposite in my case. It is all about adjusting, right? Subsequently, I’m eating like a Peruvian! This means that my breakfast sometimes consists of rice with potatoes and ‘res’ (beef), for lunch we order a menu, as an ‘entrada’ most of the times you get a soup (corn and chicken paws, vegetables, rice, and of course the soup itself to make it all float). Or I’ll go for the potatoes with some spicy sauce. You are not done by then: ‘segundo’ can be whatever you can come up with, but one thing is similar wherever I go: it’s always too much! Whenever you have been able to finish a plate the Peruvian mama is always very happy to bring you a new plate, expecting that you are still hungry. Around 8 p.m. when you finally think you might be hungry again, you go for dinner. Dinner is similar to the lunch only the portions are even bigger.
I set myself a goal: I want to try as much as different dishes as possible. In the beginning, I tried to translate the menus so that I know what I’m ordering. Right now I only try to find a name I haven’t seen before yet and order it or I just ask the ‘masero’ which dish is the best one.
A few weeks ago, I went to the biggest food festival of South-America. Here I got the possibility to try the most typical plates of Peru for a good price and with some explanation. At this festival I fell in love with my favourite (well to be honest one of my many favourites) comida in Peru: ‘Anticucho’. ‘Anticucho’ is the grilled heart of a bull on a stick. Most of the tourists I met are not willing to eat it but it’s one of the most delicious pieces of meat I ever had, maybe it’s the best if you just don’t know what you are eating. The first few times I had it, I didn’t know what it was until I became friends with the owner of the hostel I’m living in and he wanted to give me some cooking lessons.
For the context, I am living in Lima whenever I’m not in the mountains for field visits or my research. My previous plan was to rent an apartment, but due to some procrastination or/and my laziness, and my love for meeting new people, I stayed in a hostel I found. At this moment I’m already living here for almost 2 months with some breaks when I’m in the mountains. The people who are working here became my amigos what gives the feeling of a home in Lima.
When I’m not at home, they sometimes call me if I can buy them some drinks, joking around and we are having dinner together. This sometimes turns into a game with KFC, to see if they can bring the food within 30 minutes. If not, you get your food for free. The catch is that the hostel is very well hidden within the small streets of Barranco. In other words, living in the hostel feels like I’m living in a student house. One of the effects was as well that the owner of the hostel wants to teach me to be more Peruvian and cooking is an essential part of this. I’m kind of still a guest so I could choose the dish we would make: ‘ANTICUCHO’, still not knowing what type of meat it actually was.
The next day while I was waiting in the kitchen, he arrived with a big bag of bull hearts. My first reaction was of course not as fancy and brave as I wished. However, I did what I had to do and I learned how to prepare this delicious plate. I spent my evening poking pieces of a bull heart on sticks and after 2 hours we had one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. I really love this cultural aspect of Peru!