One of the most thrilling parts of 2013, for me, will be the prospect of travel. This year I plan on cramming in every last little bit of travel while I have the opportunity. Anyone who has been bitten by the travel bug, I’m sure, will understand the longing to explore new places. The possibility of experiencing new culture, history, people, art, design, and cuisine exhilarates me beyond comparison. Travel is an opportunity to slow down, get lost, and perhaps learn a bit more about ourselves. It cultivates child-like curiosity and immerses ourselves in a way of life previously unfathomed. It makes us question our own paradigms and forces us to re-examine why we think the way we do.
This summer I will be heading to South America with my bold, brilliant, and beautiful friend Kelli. We will be hopping all over the continent, between Peru, Ecuador and the Galapagos, Rio, and Argentina. As this blog centres on all things edible, I will focus on what I am most looking forward to gastronomically. South America’s cuisine is as divergent as its people, shaped by indigenous, European, Asian, and African influences. I look forward to free-falling into this delicious melting-pot of culinary heritages.
Me and Kelli
Come late June, we land in Peru. In order to fuel our hike to Machu Picchu, we will need some sustenance. The national dish of Peru is ceviche, and mom-and-pop “cebicherias” are apparently around every corner. An often overlooked aspect of this dish is the “tiger’s milk”, or the juice from the ceviche. In South America, it is touted as being both an aphrodisiac and a hangover cure. The perfect remedy to recover from one too many pisco sours (Peru’s native libation). Two other things that Peru is famous for: peanuts and peppers. It was in Peru that peanuts were first discovered by Europeans, after which they were brought to the rest of the world (tomatoes too!). Think about that the next time you tuck into your familiar PB&J. And peppers, chili peppers specifically, are the piquant pinnacle of Peruvian cuisine, adorning everything from soups to seafood. Finally, the Peruvian cult classic, so to speak, is “cuy”. Or guinea pig. Remember I mentioned wanting to broaden my palate in 2013? Why not start with rodents?
From Peru, we head to Ecuador and the Galapagos. As with many parts of South America, Ecuador is known for its seafood. Lobster dinners come cheap, and once again, ceviche reigns. Ecuador is also famous for their soups and stews (convenient, given we’re going to be there during their winter), as well as their carb-based staples such as cassava, corn, and potato. Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on some “choclo” (barbecued corn-on-the-cob)!
After walking the in the steps of Darwin, we head to Brazil. Between the sunsets, beaches, jungles, and mountains, a plethora of beauty and splendor will not be difficult to come by. Add in a few caipirinhas (luckily not the bastardized kind you get at Cactus Club), and you can’t go wrong. One of my most treasured vices is coffee, and the Brazilians know how to do it well. In fact, it’s actually their national beverage. That being said, I have a feeling I’m really going to love this place. From “churrasco” (or Brazilian barbecue), to the myriad of fresh fruits, and “cuscuz branco” (tapioca made with coconut milk), I may never come back.
But don’t worry Mom, Argentina calls my name next, and so I will be compelled to move onward. How can I write about Argentina without mentioning its most venerated offering – the wine? Argentina is the fifth largest producer of wine, with its roots in Spanish and French viticulture. While perhaps most well known for its Malbec, Argentina also makes some excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. Nevertheless, I am most looking forward to sipping a glass or two of Torrontés, while drinking in the latin scenery. Similar to Brazil, Argentina has their own barbecue culture, known as “asado”. Much like in North America, it’s usually a social gathering. But in Argentina, they smother everything in chimichurri (a sauce made from parsley, garlic, pepper, onion, and paprika, amongst other tasty ingredients). Dare I say they do it better south of the equator? An emerging food trend hailing from Buenos Aires is something known as closed-door dining, or “puertas cerradas”. These are essentially underground restaurants where local chefs will cook multi-course meals for you from the comfort of their own homes. What could be better than a home-cooked meal from a professional chef? Puertas cerradas-style dining blurs the line between restaurants and dinner parties – a more intimate approach to experiencing local cuisine. Yes Mom, I’ll make sure to bring Kelli with me when I go to a stranger’s home. And no Mom, I won’t be kidnapped and held for ransom. These are indeed legitimate establishments in Buenos Aires, for which you require reservations.
While I will be feeling slightly despondent about having to leave what is sure to be a newly beloved continent, I will still have much to anticipate. Just four short weeks after returning, I will be heading to Europe for two months! But I’ll save that post for next time…