Favorite recent and insightful quote I have read recently:

Favorite quote I have recently read: "The word temple comes from the Latin templum, which signifies an extended open space that has been marked out for the observation of the sky. In what manner is such a space marked out? According to Dr. Hugh Nibley, the word templum, "designates a building specifically designed for interpreting signs in the heavens--a sort of observatory where one gets one's bearings on the universe." The root "tem-" in Greek and Latin denotes a "cutting" or intersection of two lines at right angles, the point where the "cardo" and "decumanus" cross, hence where the four regions come together." Matthew Brown - "The Gate of Heaven"

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

When an onion is not an onion or a Vidalia...

Cooking breakfast this morning, and it is not unusual to stir fry various kinds of things in the pan before the scrambled eggs are dropped on top, I sampled once again the incredibly sweet onions we buy here at the local markets.  Several times RA and I have discussed how sweet these onions are.  We have always been consumers of Vidalias and Walla Walla onions whenever possible and would buy them at any opportunity. Sometimes this would be around the Christmas season. The Shriners have sold bags of Vidalias nationwide in the past, something like 10 pounds for $10.00. It seems to me we have bought these at Christmas time but that should not be so.  The growing season in Georgia begins with a planting of these in November and then the harvest begins in April and goes through June. It is relatively short.  For some enterprising capitalists in the US that growing season was extended.

Vidalia Sweets
Not quite a decade ago a tractor trailer was being unloaded at a Georgia processor and amongst the cargo was $3.9 million worth of cocaine and heroin snuggled in among the bags of onions.  Seems the DEA traced this sweet cargo back to the point of origin and it was Peru. Of course a number of folks were asking what were Peruvian onions doing in Vidalia Georgia? That was the larger question not the smuggled drugs.

Certain counties in Georgia have been designated and given the right to market under the Vidalia onion name. The reason for the sweetness of these onions is due to the low sulfur in the soil.  Sulfuric acid is the active irritant when cutting the not so sweet onions as the vapors mix with the fluid around the eye producing the acid.  The dry deserts of Peru turns out are also sulfur free so they make fertile beds for the world's sweetest onion, maybe the Vidalia or maybe the Peruvian Gold. Seeds were brought here some time ago and planted with astonishing success. So difficult is it to tell the difference that executives of Del Monte were given a whopping $3 million dollar fine for bagging Peruvian Golds into Vidalia Sweets bags and selling them. Ultimately the fine was reduced to $100,000.00 and a temporary suspension of business in Georgia packaging these counterfeit onions.

In the mean time we will continue to enjoy these Peruvian Golds until their season ends. I wonder... will the Peruvian sweet onion be extended by importing Vidalias? What will we do?

Peruvian Golds
One recipe we have not tried is to cut the center of the onion out and stuff it with a mixture of butter, ground beef and garlic, wrap it in tin foil and then bake it in the oven or put it on the grill. Until then we will continue to enjoy these sweet onions in our huevos con cebollas and I will enjoy eating them raw, somewhat to RA's annoyance.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Miraflores, bird guano, and the Pacific War of 1879-1884

We are spending the weekend here in Miraflores on the coast of Lima.  It is one of several upscale neighborhoods in the city.  We have a list of restaurants from Paco and Lucy and several are located within easy walking distance of our hotel. The 2nd best seafood restaurant, according to the Lonely Planet Guide, in all of South America is within sight and not far away. Maybe lunch there tomorrow. The grilled sea bass is not to be ignored.

Larcomar Shopping Mall just below our hotel and built into the cliff

The Andersons and RuthAnn along the walking path 
We had dinner with our new friends the Andersons in their Miraflores apartment.  They also are temple workers and normally are Canadians living in Ottawa but we understand their reasons for spending their winter in Miraflores.  After dinner we walked back to our hotel and enjoyed the view above the Pacific. I always wondered why the Spanish named the ocean the Pacific as our experience in Northern CA generally suggests it is anything but peaceful or 'pacific'.  Here at least in Lima the waves are small enough to make surfing largely uninteresting by comparison to CA, though there are boards and folks out doing that.  The winds are very fresh, the air clean, and flying by our hotel window each afternoon are the paragliders who launch from the cliff below us.
Parasails glider looking south to Chorillos
In the distance to the south of the bay from our hotel is an area known as Chorillos.  Years ago it was a fishing village, but all of that has changed. It was thoroughly destroyed by the Chileans in the Pacific War, also known as the Saltpeter War.  There is a mountain seen in the distance upon which a Peruvian general abandoned his post and fled from the invading army. His name is still "Mudd" with two "d's" in Peru even today.  The Chileans occupied Lima for some years until pressured by the United States to withdraw.  Seems the Brits put them up to this foreign adventure because of vast amounts of bird guano between Chile and Peru.  This was before the synthetic manufacture of saltpeter or sodium nitrate, the essential ingredient for producing gunpowder, and was needed by the Brits for their empire.  The disputed area occupied by Chile was actually part of Bolivia.  They lost that area as a result of the Pacific War and Peru eventually was awarded the city of Tacna which is their southernmost major city. Bolivians came out the worst as their country became landlocked and egress to the Pacific has been problematic over the decades.  Once WWI got underway and the synthesis of this important mineral no longer was needed, the guano of Peru and Chile was of no interest to the world powers and a decades long economic depression settled in the region.  This area of the Atacama Desert, long ago abandoned for its bird guano, is now of interest to the Chinese as the other areas of mineral and copper rich Peru are.

Chorillos to the South of us

Nothing ever happens in a vacuum and one observer of the Pacific War was then US Naval Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan who was here to "protect" US interests.  His observations of the use of navy vessels and ships by Chile to defeat both the combined armies of Peru and Bolivia contributed to his monumental tour de force, "The Influence of Sea Power Upon History."  That book and his work is required reading by every naval cadet anywhere in the world and especially at the US Naval Academy.  It is upon the basis of that work that the US and other nations expanded and embraced technological improvement of their navies. This was for the combined purposes of projecting national interests, establishing colonies, and or to secure foreign markets for these world powers. Mahan is also the author of the term "Middle East" in describing that area around the eastern Mediterranean where so much of our navy is and has been occupied after WWII. 

Captain Mahan's Civil War era ship sent to Peru to protect our interests
Thanks to the Brother and Sister Anderson for their great food, hospitality, and for his introduction to us about the war between Chile and Peru.  Hostilities these days are largely confined to soccer stadiums, fortunately, though there is still some detectable disdain among the former protagonists.

View over the Pacific at sunset from our hotel

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas will come for some, others maybe not...

We met Peruvian friends for dinner here last night. It is across a very busy and noise street from the temple but one of our favorite places. It is called Pardos Chicken. There was a Quechua grandmother selling candy bars along with her 8 year old grandson named Juan Carlos. I asked him how many soles for one of his bars and he said "cinquenta." He meant cinquenta centimos but I had no coins and the smallest bill in my wallet was a cinquenta soles or a 'fifty' which I gave him and said, "No vuelte, no cambio, Feliz Navidad."  He allowed me to take his picture then ran back across the street where there were two older boys observing the transaction. It did not help that he waved the bill in the air in plain sight. You can guess what happened while we were inside dining.  When we finished dinner the boy was with his grandmother, his sister, and mother waiting there for us. The grandmother was quite upset and I did not understand a single word other than some "por favor senior..." as they explained what had happened to the boy's money.  I gave Juan Carlos another 50 soles bill and asked for an abrazo which he was happy to give. A smile with some uncertainty returned to his face. I thought about the six grandsons and one granddaughter at home and Jack, who is just a little older than Juan. The boy had his backpack on with who knows in it, maybe more of those cheap candy bars? Maybe a toy, a favorite hero figure, or a ball, I don't know. It is the summer break from school right now and I hope he goes somewhere when it is in session. 
Jimena and Christian with RuthAnn and I at Pardos
Juan Carlos and his grandmother in traditional dress. 
Presidential elections are soon coming to Peru and the federal government has been accused of manufacturing statistics suggesting the poverty level has been reduced from 50 to 35 per cent in the last five years.  Independent observers suggest otherwise.  Those in the middle and upper economic classed by some external standards are doing well.  Locals tell of more shopping malls going up and more new car dealerships are in evidence. Still 20% of the population lives on less than one dollar a day according World Bank statistics.  I hope Christmas came for one little boy in Lima this year. 
Juan Carlos - the candy bar seller
The perpetrators, one is a juggler and the other a windshield cleaner

Christmas Lights at the Lima Temple 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sundays in Lima

Our normal Sunday is to sleep in relatively late, (8:00-8:30 AM), compared to the 5:00 AM all week long on the early schedule for the temple.  We either get picked up in the temple van by the president and travel to the ward building here in Lima, or if the president is speaking at a stake conference somewhere we catch a bus on Javier Prado Avenue.  The bus costs us one Sole or about 35 cents for both of us. Busses are not the easiest way to travel given the starts and stops and usually we stand.  They are also well known for those plying their trade as pickpockets.  Lots of bumping and folks squeezing by getting on and off.

Following the block we return to our apartment and catch up on the news and email. We have an hour before RuthAnn's piano (keyboard) students start arriving and I begin Sunday dinner.  Often we have something in the large pot on top of the stove, usually a chicken, but sometimes a beef roast.  Peru is a country of noted excellence in many ways. The food is unsurpassed anywhere in South America. Anyone who likes Yukon Gold potatoes would love even more the pappas amarillo or the Peruvian yellow potatoes. We also enjoy sweet potatoes that I boil, then whip, and melt more butter on than RA knows. I add a little brown sugar too. Her comment was I take a very good healthy yellow vegetable dish and then make it less so with the butter and brown sugar.  Usually there isn't much remaining for  lunch the following week.

Micky and Mica came over yesterday along with Renzo and Melissa.  In addition to our stove top chicken, potatoes, carrots, and rice we were treated to arroz con pato and a wonderful cheesecake desert. The pato is duck by the way and was from a local restaurant.  Following dinner the dishes are either washed and soaked in a bleach solution, (RA's choice), or washed and dipped in boiling water, my choice.  I prefer the non chemical sterilization as my hands don't smell like bleach all day.
Mica is getting used to us pretty well and enjoys watching the kid movies on the laptop.  "Gopher Broke" is her favorite, same as LG and CP.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Two months but who is counting?

We started our shift yesterday at 3:00 PM and it went to after 11:00 due to a 9:00 session which RA were both on.  We had some time before in the morning to do a little Christmas shopping so we were off to Miraflores for the artisan markets and for lunch. We caught a taxi near our local Tottus market and it was one of those beat up Tico taxis.  I think Miky told me it was built in Korea by Daewoo but Daewoo is now owned by Chevrolet.  It has a three cylinder engine and gets great mileage, almost like a Prius.  This taxi like so many other Ticos was really hammered, literally. There were dents and repairs made to numerous places on the body.  My door did not fit quite right and I could see daylight around the top of it. I am not sure what held it closed but I did not lean on it hard. Someone may have stolen the radio out of the car as wires were just hanging into the cavity where it once was.  In order to make the ride more enjoyable the driver pulled out his cell phone, set it on the radio play mode and inserted it in his ash tray. We heard music on our trip to Miraflores.  Behind our back seat was a LNG pressurized tank.  Peru has abundant resources of natural gas and it is not uncommon for taxis to have switched over from gasoline, which is very expensive here. There was not much holding the tank in place and if we had been rear ended we would have been crisped as well as folded and mutilated.  Generally speaking we avoid Tico taxis but we did not for this trip.  The cost of the trip is normally around 15 Soles in a newer Hyundai or Toyota but this guy only wanted 12. How could we refuse?
Carolers in traditional Peruvian dress.

The driver was not sure exactly where the Inca markets and mall were so we had to stop several times along the way to inquire. When we arrived I paid the man and we learned a new Spanish phrase, "Muchisimo gracias!"  He was very pleased with the 20 Soles I paid him as I said, "No cambio," (no change). We asked for a photo of him and his taxi and he was happy to oblige. Muchisiomo is an adverb and according to an online dictionary means:
    • very much
    • very much indeed
    • awfully
    • lot
    • a great deal
    • heaps
    • heaps of
    • oodles
    • very badly

      We cannot write much about what we do inside the temple and the experiences therein on this blog. We love it here and serving the members in Peru. It is difficult at times especially when on IChat with our grandson in Bloomington IN we try to explain to him when he tells us, "Grandpa, I want to come to your house."  Three years of age is too early to understand what being in Peru means. See also our earlier post about CP and "Are we in Peru in yet?" 

      We enjoy the responsibilities and duties we have in the temple and we like the taxi driver can say,"Muchisimo gracias," for the joy and happiness we find together here in serving, even if it has been just two months. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Artisans here in Peru

Since we arrived here we have noticed each and every time we hand over a Peruvian bill it is scanned carefully from the cashier at the local grocery store to the young men selling us movie tickets for Harry Potter 7.  I asked Miky about this and he said it used to be a problem but isn't any longer.  Seems it is a real problem.  Even bills as small as 10 Soles are inspected carefully.  That is the equivalent of about $3.00. Turns out that Columbia used to be the number one exporter of fake money, and all this time I thought it was Provo Utah. I know the FBI opened a special office in Utah County because of the twenties and hundreds that were coming off the presses down there. Now Peru is the number one counterfeit capitol in the world.  They are printed right here in Lima apparently.  In addition to the screening and examination of every bill by bank tellers, cashiers, and merchants anyone leaving the country with their luggage is searched carefully for these bogus exports headed usually to US markets.

The following article is from a site we follow that keeps us informed about the goings on here.  We are also thinking seriously of an Amazon jungle adventure next August when it cools off a bit. Several recommendations of lodges with wood floors, thatched roofs and mosquito nets to sleep under await us along with boat trips and wildlife viewing. We have battery powered UV sterilizers to immerse in any glass of water to take with us. Good we also got our Yellow Fever shots at the MTC before we left. I would have thought the food we were served by BYU Food Services in the MTC would have built up our immune systems and armored us against a number of tropical maladies as well. 

Peru is the world’s counterfeit capital


Peru is the world’s counterfeit capital
Peruvian police fraud unit has seized US$33 million since 2009.  (Photo: Reuters/Pilar Olivares )

In the past two years, Peru has become the No. 1 distributor of counterfeit currency internationally, according to Kenneth Jenkins, a U.S. special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Criminal Investigative Division. 

"Approximately $33 million has been seized in Peru since 2009, which is a substantial number," Jenkins told TIME Lima’s correspondent, Lucien Chauvin, in a telephone interview from Washington. 

Officers in the Peruvian police's fraud unit estimate that a much larger sum of phony money is being printed in the country. 

They say that what has been seized in the past two years represents only a fraction of different bills, including Peruvian currency, being pumped out by clandestine printing presses. 

"Counterfeit operations have been multiplying for several years now. For every person we arrest, there are probably nine others printing bills," says an officer who by law cannot make his identity known.

Chauvin reports that the largest single haul so far took place in early September, when police officers raided a printing press in Lima's San Juan de Lurigancho district, in the eastern part of the city. 

While the house had been under surveillance for some time, officers were stunned to discover the extent of the operation. The final tally of the six different currencies produced was just above $27 million. 

Fake U.S. $100 bills accounted for nearly one-third of the total, while euros accounted for $4 million. The rest of the bills were Bolivian, Chilean, Peruvian and Venezuelan currencies.

A month earlier, agents had run a sting operation that netted $1 million. The drop-off point was the food court at an upscale Lima shopping center built into cliffs overlooking the ocean. 

The counterfeiters agreed to sell each $100 bill for $5 to an undercover agent. The three people arrested had initially agreed to sell $3 million in fake bills. 

About 20 illegal printing presses have been dismantled in Lima, each capable of turning out mass amounts of bills.
Operations in Peru continue to use traditional printing techniques, with offset printers — the principal tool of the trade — churning out large numbers of scrip. Nearly all of the major busts have occurred in San Juan de Lurigancho, Lima's largest district (with more than 1 million people), where it is easy to set up shop behind a garage door and go unnoticed. 

"Overseas operations tend to be more organized than in the United States. They are using printing presses that allow them to print higher volumes," says Jenkins.

In the past few months, Peruvian police have stopped people and parcels with fake U.S. bills heading to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela and, of course, the U.S. Along the way, they have come across a vast array of methods, some quite creative, to get fake bills out of Peru. 

They have stopped passengers boarding flights to the U.S. with dollars stuffed into their shoes and have routinely found packages filled with freshly made dollars being sent through the local postal service or via international couriers. 

One raid discovered counterfeit bills sewn into stuffed animals destined for Ecuador, which uses the U.S. dollar as its official currency; another found bills hidden in false bottoms of baby cribs. Those bills were going to Central America. 

"We have been successful in breaking up several important counterfeit operations, but they are always coming up with new ways to smuggle bills," says a member of the Peruvian police's fraud unit. 

What kind of punishment do counterfeiters face? The law is relatively benign when it comes to the crime. First-time offenders may be sentenced to three years in prison, but it is unlikely for them to end up behind bars. Repeat offenders may get sentences as long as six years, but they can be out in two years thanks to a law that benefits nonviolent offenders. 

A team of Peruvian lawyers at the Lima Bar Association has been looking at the issue, working on draft legislation that will be submitted to Congress to change the way counterfeiting is dealt with in the criminal code.

"There needs to be more control, and sentences need to be dissuasive. This is not about having lax laws or applying an iron fist but having a penalty that is just and fits the crime," says José Antonio Ñique, president of the Bar Association. 

"There are great artists in this country, but some of them are using their talents for counterfeiting. Unfortunately for us, they are quite good at what they do."

The U.S. has a task force operating in Peru even though the Secret Service does not have a permanent office in the country. The closest is in Colombia, which was the counterfeit capital of the world until a joint U.S.-Colombian group helped stanch production. 

Jenkins credits the task force and the Peruvian units involved with eliminating a huge chunk of fake cash destined for the U.S. 

Says Jenkins: "Our ultimate goal is to get the counterfeit plants and seize counterfeit currency before it can leave the country, which is what we have been successfully doing in Peru."

Monday, November 29, 2010

Harry Potter in Lima

We enjoyed a pleasant weekend around the house here. Our weekends are shifted to Sunday and Monday as we have a very busy and full schedule on Saturdays in the temple. On Sunday Miky and Mica came over and we ordered pizza for dinner from D'nnos. It was very good and equal to our Papa Johns of North Salt Lake. Mica likes to be entertained as well as staying busy in our apartment. She is not quite two years of age but already enjoys the animated short movie “Gopher Broke” on my laptop, just like LG, CP, and the boys. I am sitting in my new Peruvian version of a Lazy Boy. It was custom made and necessary given the smaller size of furniture here. I needed some extra back support and they made it a little taller also. The chair is leather and was 800 soles or about $250.00 American. We ordered it on Wednesday and they delivered it on Saturday.

For entertainment we went to the Jockey Plaza this afternoon and saw the latest Harry Potter installment at a Cinemark theatre. We were advised to buy tickets for the version with “subtitulos” or subtitles in lieu of the dubbed versions. Somehow it seemed incongruous to hear Lord Voldemort as being addressed “Senior Voldemort.” We heard the original English with subtitles in Spanish. The film was good, maybe one of the best of the series.

After the movie we enjoyed the really good gelato that is sold at a number of locations around Peru. The chocolate is as good as anything I have had anywhere. We always enjoy talking with the taxi drivers we get on the street coming and going. For about a 15-20 minute taxi ride it is 9 or 10 soles or about $3.50. That is our main form of transportation other than walking.  

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving in La Molina

It was an unusual Thanksgiving Day for us here in Peru compared to other holidays in years gone by. Of course no one but expats celebrates or observes Thanksgiving Day here. The temple was open as usual and we were very busy.  It was, aside from missing everyone, a very pleasant day. A few of the more exposed to Norte Americanos workers knew what day it was in America and wished us in English, "Happy Thanksgiving Elder or Hermana Fisher." Our walk to the temple was very pleasant unlike Utah and elsewhere in the West.  Flowers are blooming and trees are filling with leaves.
One of several flowering bushes along our walk to the temple
We have much to be thankful for and the day really was enjoyable working in the temple. I thought of the Prophet Joseph Smith and I am thankful for him. I realize what I have and what he didn't have here in mortality. My bones ache now and again from long hours of standing at times, but I get to grow old together with my wife doing the things we love. We can enjoy our aches and ailments together. Among my siblings we compare notes on aging and the various maladies we inherited from the Parrish side of the family or the Fishers.  Joseph never knew of the golden years in his life. He never heard the sound of feet running and grandsons yelling "Grandpa is here." He was never embraced by a grandchild and told "You are the best. I Love you Grandpa." He never held a new grandson or granddaughter in his arms as he hardly had time to know his own children.  My children unlike his have reached their majority and we have many opportunities to enjoy their company and to observe them as they are caring and engaged adults in their own lives. Joseph never officiated in a completed temple in his life. Yesterday I conducted two sessions in Spanish and remembered to express gratitude for the Prophet in my prayers. It is because of him that we are here serving in the Lima Peru Temple and enjoying our lives as senior missionaries. We are among a people we love and who love us. Our Thanksgiving dinner when we arrived home after 9:00 PM was warmed up cuy and french fried Peruvian yellow potatoes, which was very good.

There are other holidays in Peru we will observe mostly working as they are our busiest days. On  Wednesday December 8th sessions will be doubled and held every half hour throughout the day to accommodate the Peruvian Saints who will come to the temple.  Peruvian Catholicism especially pertaining to holidays, as it is elsewhere in Central and South America, is a strange mix of indigenous Pre-Columbian tradition and mainstream orthodox religious practice. For example as mentioned in an earlier post, cuy  or guinea pig is being feasted upon by Christ and the Twelve at the Last Supper in the main cathedral in Cusco. So, on that Wednesday is Dia de Immaculada Concepcion. This celebrates Mary being without original sin. For Mormons it means a day to attend the temple here in Lima. A new religion has been added or grafted into the lives of some Peruvians and impacting how they celebrate their holidays. It is not surprising how culture blends into the religious. Afterall, was not Christmas originally a pagan holiday observed on December 25th and set aside by the Eastern Emperor Constantine?

Buses will arrive from other parts of Peru bringing their often sleep deprived occupants to the temple.  Likely we will work a little longer shift that day as they will short of workers. We probably will be as tired as the travelers by the time the day is over.

These are the holidays celebrated in Peru as far as we know. At Christmas we have a long weekend of four days off but are not planning on going anywhere. We will likely stay home but maybe venture to a new restaurant or two, do some cooking. RuthAnn will likely bake bread and will see if we can get our Skype telephone account working by then so we can call everyone and wish them "Saludos desde Peru."

January 1New Years DayAño Nuevo
April-MayHoly ThursdayJueves Santo
April-MayGood FridayViernes Santo
April-MayEaster DayDomingo Santo (Pascua)
May 1Labor DayDía del Trabajo
June 29St. Peter and St. PaulDía de San Pedro y San Pablo
July 28-29Independence DayDía de la Independencia
August 30Santa Rosa de LimaDía de Santa Rosa de Lima
October 8Battle of AngamosCombate de Angamos
November 1All Saints DayDía de Todos los Santos
December 8Immaculate ConceptionInmaculada Concepción
December 25ChristmasNavidad

RuthAnn in front of our apartment in Los Forestales Calle

Some of the trees have not regained their leaves yet
The flowers are all in bloom around the temple grounds
It really is not incongruous, neither unusual to be spending and working Thanksgiving Day in the temple.  Afterall, the Lord spoke to the Prophet about a temple in Zion and called it a place of "thanksgiving."

From Doctrine and Covenants Section 97:13 we find: "For a place of thanksgiving for all saints, and for a place of instruction for all those who are called to the work of the ministry in all their several callings and offices."
From Psalms: Psalm 26:6-8 6, I will awash mine hands in innocency: so will I compass thine altar, O Lord: 7, That I may publish with the voice of thanksgiving, and tell of all thy awondrous works. 8, Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine ahonour dwelleth.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Eating Cuy (Guinea pig) in Lima

A little hole in the wall family restaurant with very good barbecued ribs,  chicken, and cuy
Today we went to a locally recommended barbecue place that also serves guinea pig. I tried both the pork ribs and the guinea pig and I have to say both dishes were excellent. In Peru and other Andean countries these rodents are called cuy. They do not exist in the wild but were domesticated and bred for their meat thousands of years ago. It is such a delicacy the animal was usually reserved for ceremonial meals by the indigenous peoples of the Andean highlands. Lately though it has become more socially acceptable for consumption by anyone including us gringos. It continues to be a major part of the diet in the highland areas of Peru, though not as easily found on restaurant menus here in Lima. Because cuy require much less room than traditional farm animals and reproduce very quickly they remain a more profitable source of food and income than many traditional stock animals.
This was my cuy just before being put into the oven. 

Whats does it taste like? Well, it does taste like chicken, such as the dark meat. I have to say I enjoyed enough that I would order it again and lieu of barbecued chicken which we get a lot of here anyway. Cuy meat is high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. It has been described to me as tasting like rabbit but I think it is better. We had the cuy roasted in an oven. This style is called 'al horno.'
The chips are sliced potatoes on site and served hot from the frier

Peruvians consume an estimated 65 million guinea pigs each year, according to Wiki, and the animal is so entrenched in the culture that one famous painting of the Last Supper in the main cathedral in Cusco shows Christ and the twelve disciples dining on cuy. The animal remains an important aspect of certain religious events in both rural and urban areas of Peru.
It was hot and just out of the horno or masonry oven

Further, work is being done at research universities here in Peru, with the intention of breeding larger-sized cuy. I must have had one of these larger sized cuy as there was a significant amount of meat. Subsequent university efforts have sought to change breeding and husbandry procedures in South America, in order to make the raising of guinea pigs as livestock more economically sustainable. Beginning In the 1990s and 2000s, Peru began exporting the larger breed of cuy to the States, Europe and Japan with the hope of increasing human consumption outside of the Andean region of South America.

Making Chicha Morada this morning...

I am preparing some chicha morada here in our apartment this morning for our Norte Americano FHE group tonight along with RA making orange rolls and I contributing some mashed potatoes for an early Thanksgiving Dinner. The last time I made it Paco gave it only a “6” on a scale of 1 to 10. I am endeavoring to reach a 7 this morning. It should be possible considering I am using local ingredients and the pineapple is so sweet here. Chicha is a fruit drink made from a special corn grown in many places throughout the western hemisphere but comes from the maiz morado or purple corn. It is sweet and usually unfermented. Remains of a 1,000 year old production facility for chicha have been discovered on a mountaintop here in Peru. Chicha is a delightful drink and we appreciate our Peruvian friends for introducing it to us along with so much else. 

In recent years many health benefits of purple corn have been found and it is being studied seriously at universities in the US including Texas A&M. Research has shown that purple corn contains cell-protecting antioxidants with the ability to inhibit carcinogen-induced tumors in rats. Many plant-derived substances are believed to show these properties including blueberries, but few have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory capabilities and the potential as purple corn. Anthocyanins are responsible for the purple, violet, and red colors attending many plants. Anthocyanins belong to an even larger class of plant chemicals known as flavonoids and are found in diverse plants. These antioxidants in purple corn are 10 to 12 times the content found in blueberries. Other health benefits claimed by these anthrocyanins found in purple corn include prevention of cardiovascular disease, increases blood flow, act as diuretics lowering blood pressure, and the promoting of tissue regeneration and healing.

Our chicha, like other recipes, includes pineapple, fresh key limes, (added after cooking), apples, cinnamon, clove, and orange juice in addition to the purple corn. It is sweetened to taste and it will be enjoyed with our early Thanksgiving dinner in Peru. We have much to be grateful for though we are away from family and friends this year. We will be working in the temple on Thursday, but being here in Peru has only added to our gratitude for so much that we so easily take for granted. We see our fellow temple workers here who sacrifice food for the price of bus fare to be in the temple to complete their assignments. Many of the brethren cannot afford their white suits so and they rent jackets from the temple and make do with the best they have. Their shoes are worn and old but they are always a very happy people. I admire them greatly. 

If you want a recipe for chicha you can find them online and you can also email my friend Paco for a recipe. I know he won't give you his recipe for a "10" chicha but he will help you to enjoy this very healthy and enjoyable drink. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fresh Chicken and How Much Water does it take to wash a car?

RA is guilty, in front of the candy store
Fresh fruits are the best here in Peru
Today we ventured forth again being our day off.  We went to a mall of small shops and stores here in La Molina that sells everything from my new wallet, to keep credit cards from falling out, to Snickers bars that are 2/3rds the price of our super mercado. We bought a good amount of fresh and very large strawberries, along with mangoes,  a few giant figs, and some unnamed fruit.  We resisted buying any chicken though we have been assured it is very fresh and the reason it is opened up and the innards displayed is to demonstrate freshness. The chickens were all slain in the cool hours of this morning.

Chickens hanging for inspection
Muy fresca!

We have watched uniformed car wash attendants in the proximity of banks and stores cleaning customer's cars. It was pointed out to me that the entire car is washed with one, usually small, bucket of water and a couple rags along with a spray type bottle of cleaner for the tires. While RA stood in line to pay our cable TV and internet bill at the bank, that is how you do it here, I watched this guy across the street do a very nice job of cleaning this car.  No streaks, no dirt and looking very nice for maybe all of one gallon of water. I don't know what he charges, probably more if I asked being a gringo.
Maybe a one gallon bucket by the right rear tire

My favorite Carhart belt needed an additional hole because of our exercise and walking almost everywhere regimen. A cobbler punched in a nice new round hole and wanted only two centimos for his work. He also cleaned up a hole I had cut earlier. I asked how many Soles and he said "Two centimos."  That is less than 1 cent. Maybe that makes up for having to pay a dollar for a Snickers. All in all, life is good here. Tonight we are watching from ITunes a Tyrone Power movie called the "Black Rose."

Bribe paying in Peru

This is an excerpt from a blog site I visit about life for expats living in Peru.

"The issue of ‘greasing the wheels’ is something that comes up in our forums now and again. Whether it’s paying a little extra to get some paperwork through faster or sliding over a few soles together with your driver’s license to avoid a ticket, bribery is a fact here in Peru. It’s also something that no one should go along with – paying bribes really only leads to more corruption among officials as they come to expect people to pay."

We had our first experience paying a "propina" this morning. For more than six weeks we have been here we have not received our power bill. Well, guess what?  The power man came and tuned off the power and we watched him do it.  Fortunately, our neighbor and counselor in the temple presidency on the second floor interceded and asked the fellow to turn the power back on in our apartment.  He suggested fifty soles would make it happen so I ran for my wallet.  Who knows how long it would take to find a bill and pay it?  The man from the power company had a look of glee as we stepped into the shadows  and I handed him a 50 sole note.  He smiled and wished us a good day, "Egualmente," I offered in return. Our power is back on for another month and yes we should not have paid a bribe but we do have power today and likely for the month until the next one comes. Hopefully, we can get it. Fifty soles is about eighteen dollars. 

RuthAnn's View...

Our apartment has an interesting feature that I have not seen before.  There are two “courtyards” in our apartment that are open through all three levels.  We have a patio door and an office window opening onto one of these spaces.  The two apartments above us have windows opening on to this space.  The other “courtyard” is part of my laundry area.  There is a window in it to the kitchen and to the bathroom, but we have no wall or window closing it off from our living space.  On the floors above there are windows to laundry, bathroom, and kitchen.  Some of the neighbors hang their laundry out in the opening.  Once in a while we hear a crash and then get a knock at the door because the little boy on the 3rd floor has dropped something down to our floor.
It is hard to imagine how this looks, but here are photos to illustrate.
Looking from our kitchen, you see the water bottle on the counter, and the front edge of the washer through a doorless opening.  You can see the light on the floor beyond
Moving into the courtyard the open area is about 7' x 7'. There is a floor drain in the tiles and you can see my sweepings from one weeks worth of Lima air pollution. 
   Moving up the wall, our bathroom window opens on to this area, and on the top left side you can see our second floor neighbor's dryer's portable exhaust/lint filter hanging out of their window along with other windows in to their apartment.

       Looking all the way up is the third floor clothesline and a small chimney on the roof adjacent to our building

I decided that since it never rains in Lima, this is not a concern, then one morning we woke up to the closest thing to rain that happens here, which is a very heavy mist.  The floor in my courtyard and in my laundry was covered in water.  While mopping up I realized that the whole area was the cleanest I had ever seen it, so I decided that an occasional good mist was helpful for my housekeeping.

There is a third courtyard at the rear of our apartment.  Two of our bedrooms have windows that open onto this space, which is about 12 ft x 15 ft.  While the 2 floors above us also have windows to this space, only WE HAVE GRASS!

The commercially available applesauce here is heavily sweetened and overcooked to the point that the texture is almost gummy.  But the other day at Tottus I saw some nice big apples and decided to make some applesauce.  As I cut them open I was surprised to see that there were no seeds.  Actually I found 2 very small seeds in 6 large apples.  The cores were minimal. The skins were quite tough, but not hard to peel.  Out of 6 apples I made probably close to two quarts of sauce. When I cook apples at home, I add a little water to get them started, but the water in the apples make the sauce quite runny.  These were really dry apples.  I think I probably added 2 cups of water to keep the pan from boiling dry before the apples were cooked.