let the culinary adventures begin!
Wander. Eat. Drink. Learn. Share. Enjoy. This isn’t just the tagline for this website, it’s the mantra for how I choose to live my life. It’s about learning the foodways of other cultures firsthand through local markets, street foods, and restaurants; through wandering on and off the beaten path; through conversations, art, music, dance…learning what people really hold dear and celebrating it.
In the past I’ve made these journeys alone. But the best part of any good adventure is sharing it with others. The wonder, the excitement, the new smells and flavors, and the familiar ones too! The conversations, the opportunities to open hearts and minds… that’s what this is all about.
I’m as happy to wander ten miles of home as ten thousand. So, in the coming months I’ll share some great local adventures, including some in person opportunities for those of you in the tri-state area. But right now, my mind is on far away places.
I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before. I want to experience an ancient culture, distinctive art and music, deeply rooted regional cuisine – all the things that help create magical adventures. I want to cultivate my vital sense of wonder!
what about Peru?
Have you been to Peru? I’ve never been to Peru. Not even South America. I plan to change that. This year. Want to join me?
To prepare for the journey, I’m doing a lot of research. As I do, I’ll share it here with you. This is the first of a four-part series about preparing for my Peruvian Culinary Journey with my friends at Ponte Travels. Hopefully, along the way, you’ll decide you want to come along for that great adventure.
My first thought is to answer, “why not?” But I think you deserve a more thoughtful response. So, in all honesty, it started with all the books and Netflix that filled my free time during the pandemic while alone in a strange city. I’ll list them in my “to read and watch” list at the end of this post.
3 reasons, in no particular order
As I mentioned, this is the first in a series of four posts. The next three will dig deeper into these topics. Here’s a taste:
1. Great chefs.
Specifically, chefs Gastón Acurio, Virgilio Martinez, and Pía León.
Peru has been awarded the distinction of “Best Culinary Destination in Latin America” for multiple years in a row. This is, at least in part, thanks to the work of these chefs, all of whom have restaurants that have been recognized in the 50 Best in the World. In fact, Martinez’s restaurant Central was recently awarded “Restaurant of the Decade in Latin America.” At the helm there you’ll find Chef Pía León, the World’s Best Female Chef of 2021. And you’ll find me there in November at a cooking class and private lunch!
Virgilio Martinez is the author of several cookbooks. One of them, The Latin American Kitchen, was an alternate choice for a recent season of the cookbook club. But it was so inspiring that we chose to dedicate a full season to exploring Latin American cuisine (coming in Fall 2022). The season will culminate in this trip to Peru!
2. Peruvian potatoes. And pisco.
I like alliteration. All the “p” words. And I love potatoes. And pisco. But that’s just the start. Peru is known for its biodiversity, especially when it comes to food. In addition to the famous potatoes, there are types of corn available nowhere else, quinoa, and more.
Peru is where potatoes come from (here and Bolivia). Potatoes have been found in this part of the Andes since at least 8000 BCE. The Inca cultivated potatoes in Peru throughout their short but significant reign before the Spaniards brought them to Europe in the 16th century.
There are over 3800 types of potatoes growing in Peru today, most of which only grow here. On one of the farm tours we have scheduled, we’ll meet an agronomist in the Sacred Valley who’ll teach us about 370 of those native varieties.
And let’s not forget the pisco! Pisco is a type of unaged brandy from South America – mostly Peru and Chile. In fact, it’s the Peruvian national spirit. It’s distilled from grape juice using a process introduced by the Spaniards in the 17th century. It’s truly unique and has herbal, earthy flavors. Great in Pisco Punch! More on that soon…
3. Living ancient culture.
Peru’s ancient culture is still alive today. In language, dress, lifestyle, food, art, and music. I could go on. And I will in another post. In the meantime, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that a visit to Machu Pichu is on the absolute top of my list. Those Incan ruins are one of the top tourist attractions in the world. So, here are a few other cultural treasures…
Art. Specifically, the textiles. Ancient Andean textile arts are also world-renowned. Because of the climate in the mountains, there are dyed textiles that have been preserved for over 6000 years. Today you’ll still find Quechua women weaving by hand from intensely colored wool made from cotton, llama, and alpaca. Wood, gold, and silver arts are also prevalent.
Andean music. Panpipes, flutes, drums, and stringed instruments introduced by the Spaniards like the charango (similar to a lute).
Quechua culture. The native Peruvians, collectively referred to as the Quechua (the name of the language), now only make up less than 26% of the population. Their culture pre-dates the Incan Empire by thousands of years. These people are historically semi-nomadic from the Andean highlands. Today, they are most noted for their textile arts and traditional dress that includes woolen coats, ponchos, flowing skirts, and unique hats. Interesting fact: the women’s hats may actually signify their relationship status.
join me in Peru this fall!
reading and watching list
Chef’s Table, Netflix 2017 season, Episode 4 (read about it on Eater HERE)
Peru, Hidden Treasure, also on Netflix
Touching the Void, a survival docudrama based on a book by Joe Simpson
Turn Right at Machu Pichu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time by Mark Adams
The Last Days of the Incas by Kim MacQuarrie
Eight Feet in the Andes by Dervla Murphy
The Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming