Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The eleven widows of Bischongo

To all of you who may have been overindulging a bit over the holidays. Here’s some more ….. food.

 fig 1 

Lima could just well be shaping up to become the gourmet capital of the world. Peruvian cuisine is nothing short of spectacular. Once you’ve eaten ceviche or papa a la huancaina or carapulcra in any one of the city’s growing raft of elegant, homespun or funky (take your pick) restaurants, I guarantee you will have been spoiled for pretty much any other place on earth.

The last decade has seen something of a food revolution in Peru.  There are even rumours that one of the country’s most renowned celebrity chefs (Gaston Acurio) may run for president in the next general election.

But this story takes place long before fanciful creations such as deconstructed causa or octopus in purple coal made their way onto the menu. A time when foam and sand were usually to be found on the beach, rather than on your plate.

For the longest time I wasn’t able to locate Bischongo on the map, but then when I dug a bit deeper researching for this post, I realized that it was because Hernan spells it differently. I also discovered a theory that says the name Vischongo comes from the Quechua words Wischuq Soncco meaning generous or giver. I don’t know if that’s true but I hope so. It fits this story perfectly. There are definitely none of your avant garde, molecular morsels here. Hernan describes a late night extravaganza, complete with all the elements I've come to associate with a typical Peruvian family food celebration: hospitality, creativity and the need for a digestive tract that can go the distance. 

The eleven widows of Bischongo
In which the ladies of a small Andean town manifest their fervent belief that the way to an explorer’s heart is through his stomach.

Vischongo - Ayacucho
All our archeological expeditions were undertaken on an amazingly tiny budget, and naturally that required a treasurer who could perform miracles. 

If only they were all like that, what a wonderful place Peru would be. But the stringent budget and the harsh discipline it required were not easy for some to bear.  Most new expedition members wore very long faces by the end of the first day, and by the end of the first week many of them had started to grumble and find excuses for leaving.