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5.09.2005

 

La cocina de mi abuelita


Everyday life in my grandmother's kitchen. No single room in Peru holds more good memories for me. At left is abuelita herself, who passed away recently at 95 years old, give or take a year (nobody knows for sure!). My tía Chabuca (center) cared for abuelita, her mother-in-law, until the very end, even though she had been widowed for some 15 years. My cousin Martín (right) is an engineer in his early 30s and continues to live at home and contribute to the family's well-being. All this is customary in Perú, where family comes first.

Comments:
What was the best meal you had in that kitchen?

One of the best meals I had was at this trout hatchery in the Central Highlands of Peru near Huancayo. Two large trouts grilled over charcoal for about 5 soles.
 
Thanks for your question, eduardo. Yes, sometimes it's real basic and simple foods that leave you with the greatest memory. Trout in the mountains is unbeatable!

I could name some exotic stuff that I had here in Grandma's kitchen, such as Lomo Saltado (stir-fried beef and potatoes), Ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice), Carapulcra (an Indian-tasting stew made with reconstituted dried potatoes).

Pollo al Carbón was probably the best tasting dish I've had in Peru, bar none. It's something that Martín and his younger brother Paco make. It's essentially spicy marinated chicken pieces that are cooked and smoked within a cylindrical container (the size of a big stock pot) over a small charcoal fire. Charcoal in Peru is really cheap and comes in sticks, not broquettes, and I think that allows for a slower cooking process and a nice mellow smoke flavor. There's a catch pan below the chicken in which they put cut-up potatoes. These potatoes stew in the chicken juices all day and then get served on the side.

It's my summer project this year to recreate this dish here in Minnesota using a Weber smoker and some hardwood charcoal, which, ironically costs like $20 a bag.

So, that's the food portion of the discussion. But the best memory is when, late at night, after he got back from his job as a bank manager, my tío Guillermo would fry up some sweet potato slices, which we'd eat on buttered toast, with coffee. Sure, it tasted wonderful, but mostly it was being able to spend time with my dear uncle, who worked too hard and died too young.
 
They have sooo many pollo restaurants here in Northern Virginia, some better than others.
 
Peruvian pollo restaurants, I might add.
 
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