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"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Preparing for Cusco

We have just a couple days here and then the Lima Temple closes for semi annual maintenance. We have two weeks of vacation in February and two more in August. We were told if there was a baby blessing, a wedding, or something of significance we could also apply for permission to return to Utah during those two weeks. That is a very tempting thought of seeing family and grandkids again. Since our mission area is all of Peru we are able to travel to Cusco and Machu Picchu. We will be posting photos and reports following our trip there when we return as our laptops are not going with us. We will have our IPhone so we can keep in touch via e-mail. We will be enjoying this trip with friends coming from Utah to spend a week with us here.
Machu Picchu the iconic remnant of the Incan world
Going to this very high altitude, cultural, and historical area of Peru requires some amount of preparedness. Probably the single most important consideration is finding a reputable and reasonable travel agency. Lamanita Travel was recommended to us by others here in Peru. We checked prices and services and found them to be competitive and in one case about half what a local agency in Lima wanted for the same service.

Secondly, the high altitude presents problems for any tourist coming to Cusco. The symptoms of high altitude sickness include about everything that can go wrong and ruin a trip, including but not limited to, nausea, diarhea, vomiting, headaches, insomnia, malaise, and fatigue. The prevention of these symptoms begins two days before your arrival. The most recommended medicine for prevention is Acetazolamida 250 mg twice a day. It is sulfa based so if you have allergies do something else. Our local missionary doctor recommends the coca tea and they used it successfully on their last visit. We bought our supply, the Acetazolamide, not the coca, over the counter from the local farmacia. Almost everything is available except narcotics without a prescription here in Peru.
Sacsayhuaman Complex near Cusco
The third consideration when going to Cusco and in visiting any area of Peru is safety. This is ameliorated considerably by relying on a competent guide service and taking a few extra personal precautions. The US State Department has a number of advisories published for travelers in Peru and elsewhere. The main crime against tourists are those associated with theft. Leaving a backpack or day pack unattended is a guarantee for a loss. A simple tip would be when putting your bag down on the floor to take a photo or enjoy lunch, remember to put your foot through the strap. It won't be stolen or forgotten. Money belts and the means to carry important documents under your clothing are recommended. We have talked with all of the expats here and the recurring problem is with pickpockets, though cross country busses have been hijacked and the occupants robbed. This made the news here recently. A common ploy for pickpockets is to squirt you with a liquid and then a "volunteer" will quickly want to help you get cleaned up. In the process your pockets are emptied. Public transportation in the cities on tight and cramped busses is another easy way for crime to occur given how many are hanging on to the handrails and the bumping and the jostling that occurs. In visiting high crime areas of downtown Lima I kept my wallet in my front pocket and my hand on it. I am wondering if the Utah Legislature can pass a law that would allow Utahans to carry Browning 1911 ACP 45's whenever they travel even abroad here in Peru.
Downtown Cusco
Night time gives thieves and more serious criminals opportunities for violent crimes including assaults, kidnappings, rape, and armed robbery. In Peru US and foreign travelers have been kidnapped, beaten and their accounts emptied through the convenient ATM's that are everywhere. Travelers are warned when visiting the Sacshnuayman ruins outside Cusco and should do so only in large groups and never at night, dawn, or dusk due to roving gangs known to frequent the area. They are a remnant of an ancient gang called the "Gadiantones." We are also advised to avoid money changers in the street who sometimes work with pickpockets in identifying potential targets. These street changers are also, apparently, a source for introduction of counterfeit currency into the economy. Peru is currently the number one printer of counterfeit US twenties and hundreds in the world.

Returning to Machu Picchu, recent archaeological research by a National Geographic scholar in a forthcoming book contains sufficient evidence to suggest it was built for religious purposes. This discounts the theories it was an emperor's summer estate or a maximum security prison, among others. Unfortunately, this book I have ordered from Amazon won't arrive in time for the trip. The scholar, Johan Reinhard, is also the discover of Peru's Ice Maiden, found frozen high in the Andes Mountains dating to the Incan period. 
Intihuatana Stone and Altar
We want to enjoy our visit and with adequate preparation including a little background reading and research it will be safe and enjoyable. My friends at the temple tell me the cuy is to be savored and enjoyed along with llama or alpaca in Cusco. Peru like other countries has a varied cuisine influenced by climate and availability of local produce and ingredients. We hope to see more of this beautiful country during the rest of our stay here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Making Bread in Peru

A hot loaf of home made bread just cooled enough to slice

So far in our travels and experience in Lima we have not found a source for good bread. Even the whole wheat bread RA bought at Albertsons we cannot find the equivalent here in our favorite grocery store. The three traditional staples of Peruvian cuisine are corn, potatoes, and beans. Rice is a major component of any Peruvian meal though it is imported from elsewhere and was brought to South America by the Spanish along with wheat, chickens, and beef.  Since good bread is a delicacy and hard to find RuthAnn set the alarm early and started making the dough in order to have hot bread out of the oven before we leave for our afternoon shift at the temple.  All of our daughters make bread and had lessons watching Grandma Fisher.  My mother told me that she first started when she was 12 years old and was taught by her Grandmother Ford.  RuthAnn also said her mom started baking bread at a very early age also. Others in the family make wonderful bread too. 

The kneading process

Watching RuthAnn make the bread and capture a few photos of the process was quite informative and interesting. I had no idea of the amount a CO2 that  a little bit of yeast or leavening could do to a mass of dough.  Whole wheat flour is not found easily here either though we have been told it exists at somewhere. She adds wheat germ and bran which she can buy.  The process of making bread is physically rigorous and requires both effort and coordination.  She has a very practiced and choreographed method for kneading as she works the dough. 

Loaves just about ready to put into the oven

My role in all of this is to insure that a process called retrogradation does not occur. This can be detected visually as small water droplets or condensation form onto plastic bags within or without the refrigerator around a loaf. In simpler terms this process of retrogradation is known as "going stale." I insure its freshness by limiting its time on the kitchen counter. It is also retrogradation that makes pastries and bread temporarily moist as they come out of the microwave after not too long an exposure to microwave radiation.  Water is a byproduct of the process of molecular re-crystallization incorporated in retrogradation. 

I have a new and greater appreciation for bread making today. This batch, maybe because it was recorded on camera, has been her best to date. She also left out the oatmeal which might have been interfering with the gluten formation.  No worry about retrogradation here, a half loaf is gone already.

With homemade strawberry jam

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our trip to Gamarra

Gamarra is a well known shopping area and part of Lima metro area, though I am not certain what the specific name of the city it is located in.  I read in one account there were over 10,000 proprietors and stores there. It is unlike any place I have ever been in terms of a shopping experience.  It is as though eBay suddenly came to Peru and set up shop in brick and mortar locations. In Gamarra there exists only textiles, clothes, and anything associated with the textile trade.  We found a store that featured shirts for the large and tall, meaning they had 2XL short sleeve shirts of which I bought five of them and two ties for all under $50.00 US.  Mr. Mac in Bountiful would have sold me the same quality merchandise for about $150.00.  We'll go back again as it is such a fascinating place.  
Not a very crowded Monday AM in Gamarra
Battery powered BP on the sidewalk
I had my BP checked by a young student nurse who was taking blood pressure readings on the street for 1 Peruvian Sole or less than 30 cents.  I could not resist as I have not checked it since I left Doc Shields office for the pre-induction mission physical. It was a whopping 104/76. I think that compares with my kids. I attribute my new found health to regular batches of chicha morada I make and drink, the walking we do a lot of, but most importantly the very pleasant place nearly every day we report to work at, the temple here in Lima. Stress levels are considerably at a low ebb and likely to continue for the next 20 months.

We inquired of the taxi driver Pedro if he was hungry and could he recommend a good place for lunch.  We all went to this place called Huancahuasi on the Javier Prado Calle and I ordered up alpaca, while RA had the deep fried cuy. Our new friend Pedro shared his cordero or lamb chops with us and they were very good too. Not sure when we go back what I would order, maybe more alpaca but maybe the lamb chops.
Some sweet chicha with Pedro 
Bebe Cuy on RA's plate
My Alpaca Lomo Saltado dish with at least four kinds of potatoes
We ended our shopping day at the Jockey Plaza looking for a VGA adapter at the I-Store and noticed this delightful and well crafted pewter chess set in the window as we were browsing.  It features the Chillenos versus the Peruanos, (written about in a previous post), in the Pacific War between those two countries. I have seen sets commemorating the Conquistadores vs. the Inca which I would like to bring one home.
Chile versus Peru in 19th Century Period Uniforms

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ceviche or Cebiche...

January 30th 2012 -- Update  We are in the north of Peru in the Lambayeque region and for lunch I ordered cebiche as an appetizer. The name of the restaurant is El Cantaro. It has won numbers of nationwide awards in Peru and highly recommended by locals. The main course was cabrito with rice and beans and also very good. The cebiche came with camote, a deep fried corn fritter, along with yuca, and the standard choclo. We have depended on our friend Walter to deliver us to a number of archaeological sites in Trujillo and now Chiclayo.  He is also great at finding restaurants and recommending dishes to order.  Cebiche for me has been something of an acquired taste.  In the 16 months we have been in Peru I have come to appreciate and enjoy it more, especially when we have ordered it in the north of Peru.
Cebiche from El Cantaro in Lambayeque Peru.  Maybe the best I have 
experienced in Peru. 
Yesterday we tried another new restaurant in our neighborhood recommended to us in a round about way by a North American formerly associated with the temple. The place is called Puerto Mancora and they serve seafood.  Mancora is also a surfing and fishing village to the north of Peru and close to the border with Ecuador.  It is known for very good cebiche. The food at our restaurant was excellent. I had a platter of cebiche from fresh grouper marinated with lime/lemon, along with onions, hot peppers and other, unknown to me, ingredients. Cebiche is to Peruvian cuisine as sushi is to Japanese. Not surprisingly several Japanese chefs here have modified Peruvian cebiche to Japanese tastes here in Lima and elsewhere. This dish is enjoyed with some enthusiasm by almost every Peruvian, especially my friends in the temple. I am working on developing a greater appreciation for it. I also drank the accompanying marinade known affectionately as "la leche de tigre" or "la leche de pantera," meaning the 'milk of the tiger' or 'the panther.'  Their chicha morada or purple corn drink was as good as any I have enjoyed at any restaurant here. I had two large glasses.

Cebiche is enjoyed with corn, avocado, and sweet potatoes
The active ingredient, in this largely citrus based marinade, is citric acid and acts to neutralize the fishy smell of amines in the fish by converting them into ammonium salts. The lemon served with fish at many restaurants is not just for taste but to often conceal less than a fresh catch. The marinade aside from neutralizing "fishy"smells breaks down the collagen of the protein and the fish turns from its normal translucent sushi appearance to a "cooked" white appearance.  The marinade and the fish need to be kept cool for several hours while this process occurs. It is served cold and since no cooking has happened it can contain bacteria and micro organisms not affected by the exposure to the acid based marinade.  A chlolera outbreak in Peru was traced to infected fish or fish handlers back in the '90's, so some caution has to be exercised in selecting carefully either the fish or the restaurant where you will enjoy this dish.

The origins of cebiche or ceviche are in dispute.  Historians and archaeologists here have suggested there is evidence that a pre-Incan culture known as the Moche (100 AD to 800 AD), had recipes for this fish cooked without heat in a marinade at least 2000 years ago, though it is thought Christopher Columbus, along with death, disease, and destruction, brought citrus seeds to the new world to Hispanola.  Another theory suggests cebiche came with the Spaniards from the Moorish women who accompanied the conquistadores. The Muslim Moors were Arabs who at one time ruled and had predominant cultural and political influence on the Iberian Peninsula for five centuries. Even the entomology of the word cebiche is conflicted as both Quechua, the native Inca language and Arabic have cognates.  Due to the Arab domination of the peninsula there are many Arabic words incorporated into Spanish. Among them are the words for sugar 'azucar' and olive oil 'aceite.' We just had municipal elections in Lima for a new mayor. He is known as the 'alcalde.' This is from the Arabic 'al-qadi', meaning the judge.
Moche Portrait sculture in a pitcher
In any case Lima Peru is the predominant area for cebiche, though it is found in the Caribbean, Mexico and throughout all of South America. Not unusual given the four centuries for which the Spaniards largely controlled the continent from the Viceroyalty of Peru from Lima. In the 1980's it made its way into North America and is found at upscale restaurants other than those operated by native Peruvians or South Americans from California to New York City.

We have on our schedule several museums here in Lima and Cusco we want to visit to learn more about life in Pre-Columbian Peru of the Moche, Chimu, and Inca peoples. There are at least 4,000 years of history here before the Europeans came. One  museum is known in English as the 'National Museum of the Archaeology, Anthropology, and History of Peru.' The other is simply known as the 'Larco Museum' and is owned privately. This museum also has a restaurant we are told that serves very good cebiche.  Moche artifacts and ceramics are often known among archaeologists for their extensive representation of erotic themes and caricatures. More so than any other civilization or culture anywhere in the world. It is a draw for the many curious foreign tourists. Likely, we will avoid that room in the Larco.  The Moche were fine craftsman in other areas as these sculptured ceramics suggest. They also used molds in producing their works which apparently was unusual for an ancient culture.
Moche sculpted portrait pitcher
We should also observe and note the deserts were very good at the Puerto Mancora. RA ordered the desert of the day and we were not sure what it was and our language skills are still quite challenged. Mine was easy, a couple brownies under vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The food overall in Peru is really superb.

Desert Time at the Puerto Mancora