Peru Eats that May or May Not Make You Ill

Well, well, well. Looks like I brought a souvenir back from Peru and I’m not talking about the gorgeous alpaca sweater I got at Sol in Lima.

Giardia

No, I’m talking about a parasite in my small intestine. Actually, there’s probably more than one of them. So, a pack of parasites, if you will. (they look so happy in the picture above. Very disconcerting.)

I went to the doctor on Tuesday and she quickly diagnosed me with Giardia. Doesn’t that sound like some sort of lovely plant or bush? “Just look at that Giardia flowering over the balustrade over the portico.”

It’s apparently quite common in cats and dogs. Guess I should have taken my preventative Frontline before the trip.

Anyway, it all continues to be unpleasant and fairly disgusting. I’m on antibiotics for the next week.

Not surprisingly, my new favorite pastime is to go over (in my mind) again and again everything I ate or ingested during the trip. I thought it was a fairly clean cut case against the coconut paleta I had in Lima, but who really knows? Let’s review some of what we ate while in Peru.

Pisco Sour

The lovely national drink of Peru. It’s composed of Peruvian Pisco (it’s kinda like a brandy), lime or lemon juice, simple syrup, ice, egg white and a drop of Angostura bitters.

Pisco sour in Peru

Our scientific findings, which included consumption of Pisco Sours at no less than four upscale hotels and more than a couple of restaurants, was that the best Pisco Sour in Peru can be found at the executive lounge at the Westin Lima Hotel and Convention Center. Amazing. The bartender didn’t use a mix (as some other places did) and he vigorously blended it in a shaker by hand – not a blender, as was more common. It was our first Pisco Sour of the trip and it was smooth and creamy and not too sour. We spent the rest of our time chasing another one like it.

Ceviche

The lovely national dish of Peru. It’s made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices until the chemical reaction causes a sort of cured/cooked state. Sorta like pickling.

ceviche in Peru

I’d like to think that the three or four times we had it the fish was fresh, but who knows. When we had it, we shared it, and while XFE has had some slight stomach issues, they’re not nearly the scale of my own, so I’m willing to give ceviche a pass as the culprit.

Cuy

Yes, despite my sworn protestations, I did partake in some guinea pig. BUT, it was a very small bite and was one course in a 17-course tasting menu at Astrid & Gaston, one of the finest restaurants in Lima. It was done in a Peking style, so I could barely taste it between the corn crepe and the sauce.

Cuy at Astrid & Gaston, Lima Peru

Alpaca

I had an alpaca loin at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge on the night of my birthday. I’m not sorry to say: It was really, really good. Kind of like a cross between lamb and a pork chop. Very tasty. I’d definitely eat it again.

Alpaca at the Sanctuary, Machu Picchu

Cancha salada

Toasted dried chulpe corn,salted and crunchy. These awesome little snacks were frequently put out when we ordered drinks. Delicious. I loved them. Sorta like  Corn Nuts (but not as processed).

Cancha_corn_snack

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Nerves of Jello Over Here

I am very nervous about our upcoming trip to Peru, y’all.

I’m not nervous about packing. For once. Although, my new laissez faire “take what you wore yesterday and throw it in a bag (*plus clean underwear)” attitude won’t work for this trip. For one thing, I wore a bulky turtleneck, wool pants and a heavy coat yesterday. That won’t really work for a destination with temperatures in the 60s-80s.

I’m actually following this girl’s advice on packing for a safari, since our trip to Peru is sorta similar in a lot of ways. (Seriously, she has packing advice for just about every conceivable destination/time of year. Very helpful site)

safari packing

This trip is heavy on the moving around and outdoor adventure front, so no need for heels or going-out clothes.

I’m also not scared I’m going to be eaten by sharks, like I was when we were planning our trip to Australia. (Turned out that reef sharks are kinda small and wimpy and are in no way prepared to take a bite out of my flailing body. Also: we’re not diving in Peru. Sooooo…there’s that.)

No, I have lots of other things stressing me out.

Don't worry, Poe! I won't try to eat you. (Wait....do llamas bite?)
Don’t worry, Poe! I won’t try to eat you. (Wait….do llamas bite?)

For one thing, it’s our first trip to South America together and well, South America is a whole other ball of crazy coca tea (I’ll explain that reference a bit further down).

Peru in particular appears to be a bit, well, how shall I put this…..flexible in terms of criminal justice and acceptance of bribes. To be fair, it does appear that Peru is cleaning up its act a bit in terms of corruption. According to this lady in Peru who I’m sure has no reason whatsoever to make up such an assertion.

So, I’m worried that we’ll get ripped off repeatedly by cab drivers (related: cabs don’t have meters). Or worse – I really do not want to be shot in the stomach. That would suck.

I’m, of course, scared I’m going to be mugged. This apparently happens a lot. Even in nice neighborhoods in Lima.

I’m worried that we should not be driving on the roads, particularly not out into the desert. I’m worried that my pigeon Spanish won’t be good enough to keep us from being thrown into a Peruvian jail for some minor infraction like not having our side mirror at a 45 degree angle.

If Peruvian prison scares this guy, what do you think a mushball like me is going to do?
If Peruvian prison scares this guy, what do you think a mushball like me is going to do?

I’m very worried about altitude sickness when we go to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. And that to combat said altitude sickness, I’ll have to drink the local cure, which is a tea make out of cocaine leaves. That’s right. Cocaine leaves. Something I don’t need in my life: failing a random drug test at work and trying to explain THAT.

I’m worried that I’ll accidentally eat cuy—guinea pig, a local delicacy. (I’m tipping a 40oz for my guinea pig homies and childhood pets, Peanut and Walnut, right now.)

Also: This British travel website? NOT HELPING. Some snippets:

Spiritual cleansing – Shamans and other individuals offer ‘spiritual cleansing’ to tourists, especially in the Amazon area and Cusco. This service is not regulated and there have been serious illness and deaths following such ceremonies.

Sand buggies – There have been deaths and injuries involving recreational sand buggies, particularly in the sand dunes around Ica and Lake Huacachina. These buggies are unregulated and the drivers and agencies take no responsibility for the welfare of passengers.

Ugh. This is what I do now that I’m in my 40s. I stress and worry. I fret and overanalyze about all the things that could possibly go wrong.

I know—at least in my head—that none of these things are likely to happen to us. That we’re seasoned travellers. That we’ll be safe and smart. I know that we’ve arranged a car service to take us to and from the airports. We know not to get into just some random old hoopty cab and we’ll always negotiate a price first.

I know we won’t carry valuables (I’m not even bringing jewelry, or my phone, or any electronics) and we will stay vigilant in public places.

I know XFE will not let me become a drug mule, and that he’s already gotten a prescription for non-cocaine-laced altitude sickness pills for us.

I know that I will not take part in any spiritual cleansings or drive sand buggies in a reckless manner or eat furry little childhood pets.

I also know damn well that I should never look on the Internet for things to worry about because you will always, always find them.

In Peru, they can hate, they just need to not masticate! (wow. that was bad.)
In Peru, they can hate, they just need to not masticate! (wow. that was bad.)