Sunday, 31 August 2014

Let them eat cake

Panetón (panettone) is a family favourite in Peru. In fact Peru is the second largest consumer of panetón in the world, beaten only by Italy.

The domed shaped yeast bread, traditionally flavoured with candied fruit peel and raisins, is said to hail from fifteenth century Milan. Nowadays all sorts of delicious chocolate versions are available, but in Lima the old school panetón reigns supreme.

Indeed there is a kind of hierarchy of brands and in our family, when wishing to impress, it´s not unknown for lesser (no less delicious) brands to find their way into the boxes of their more upmarket relatives.

Panetón crowds the supermarket aisles in late December, and is eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve accompanied by industrial strength sweet steaming hot chocolate. But you don´t have to wait for Christmas to enjoy it.

In this story Hernan tells how, on the long arduous Marañon expedition, Tello´s deputy and head bean counter Toribio Mejía Xesspe is sent one from his wife. 

Let them eat cake 
In which the odyssey of a panetón is rather rudely cut short

On the eve of his birthday, whilst we were in Casma, Mejía Xesspe received a panetón that his wife had sent to him. The gracious lady, mindful no doubt of her husband’s companions, had sent a large cake that was plenty big enough for all of us. But we only got one tiny slice each, the excuse being that we would do well to save enough to share out again once we got to the other side of the Marañón basin

Señora Mejía Xesspe had probably not imagined when she sent the gift, that her cake would be so zealously preserved, but it’s worth mentioning here that Mejía Xesspe’s meticulous thrift always delighted Tello, because he was able to miraculously balance the books with his stringent economies and strict rationing.

Months passed and we soon forgot all about the precious panetón. Nevertheless, it unexpectedly came to light again one day in Pacasmayo.