Peru 2008: Dinner with a Peruvian family

June 27, 2008 (Continuation of journal)

I lay down on the bed and tried to nap, but couldn’t go to sleep. Instead, I took a bath in the bathtub, which felt really good! I soaked for a while and read, then washed off all the dust and grime from the day’s activities and put on clean clothes.

Wearily, I climbed the stairs up to the bar. Popcorn was passed around and I munched on a few kernels, drinking from my water bottle to stave off thirst, until a tray arrived loaded with freshly made Pisco Sours. Tired and queasy as I was, I couldn’t pass up a Pisco Sour! I’d really grown fond of the national Peruvian alcoholic beverage. I wondered if I could find anywhere in our area back home that served them. I did remember that one of my books on Peru contained a recipe.

After we celebrated with a toast, it was time to get on the bus again to go to a middle class family’s home in Urubamba. I’d heard they often served guinea pig and wondered what that would taste like.

 We were greeted at the house by our hostess and chef, a grandmother who makes a living cooking for tour groups and other catering jobs. She lives with her daughter, son-in-law and twin 8-year-old granddaughters. She has other children too, but they do not live here.

 At home that evening were only herself and the two girls, Mayli and Marjorie. Their father, Justo, was to arrive later. It turned out he worked in our hotel. His wife works as a waitress and had to work that night, so she couldn’t be there. We were ushered immediately into the narrow dining room, the long table set up with a brightly colored table cloth and place settings. Dale and I sat at one end of the table, and across from us were Jayme and Val. The two girls, however, were fighting over who would get to sit next to Jayme, so Val finally moved over so that the girls could sit one on either side of him.

Jayme with Mayli and Marjorie On the shelf behind them is an ekeko, for good luck.
Jayme with Mayli and Marjorie On the shelf behind them is an ekeko, for good luck.

Mayli and Marjorie were fascinated with Jayme and he was a very good sport about it, talking and laughing with them. They touched his hair and his beard, apparently never having seen another young man like him. They marveled at how “crespo” (curly) his hair was, and I told them I didn’t know where he had gotten hair like that, because my hair certainly wasn’t curly. One of them pointed at Dale, observing that his hair was curly. Well, yes, I said, that’s true, and left it at that. 

 We were asked what we wanted to drink and some people had wine. I didn’t have the stomach for wine after a large glass of frutilla and a Pisco Sour, so I asked for “chicha morada”, a non-alcoholic form of chicha made from purple corn, popular with children.

First we were served quinoa soup, which was excellent and received many compliments. Then came the main course, which was roast duck, chili relleno (different from the Mexican version) and a potato casserole. The duck was good – not greasy, as it usually is. It was dark, having been marinated in a sauce probably, and somewhat tough, but tasty. I approached the chili relleno with some trepidation, having little tolerance for spicy food. This chili relleno was actually made with a sweet pepper, and it had a breading on the outside, but I didn’t like the filling much. The potato casserole, however, was great.

 I actually didn’t eat much, and I ate slowly. My stomach was still queasy and I didn’t want to give it too much to handle.  I also didn’t know what we would be having for dessert, which turned out to be a homemade cookie.

It was a delight watching Mayli and Marjorie play with Jayme, hiding their heads on his lap, and joking around with us. They were so cute! Everything about us seemed to fascinate them. They wanted to try on someone’s glasses – I told them mine were too strong for them and that I couldn’t see at all without them. Sharon let them try hers on, so I took Marjorie’s picture wearing Sharon’s glasses!

The girls asked us our ages (again!) and what we all did for a living. We asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. One of them said a chef and the other said a tour guide. Being a tour guide is a very popular profession to aspire to in Peru!

After dinner, our group members gave our hostess and her family the souvenirs we brought from our home towns. We had brought postcards and little key chains with Chicago on them, and also some fun pens – one with a boat passing on the lake in front of Buckingham Fountain, which moves when you tip the pen, another similar one of a tour bus passing the Sears tower, and another with a built in maze with a silver ball that you try to get through the maze by tipping the pen. Other people had brought different kinds of souvenirs from home, but the girls’ favorites were the Delaware T-shirts and miniature state flags that Wally and Cindy had brought, and they posed with their grandmother and father for pictures with these oversized shirts on, holding the flags out in front of them.

I don’t think I had ever been as tired as I was that night when we returned to the Casona de Yucay. I wanted nothing more than to go straight to bed; however, my digestive system had had all it could take, and I couldn’t sleep until I had taken Imodium to settle my stomach.

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