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, September 23, 2011

Cebiche de Pato and 52 Weeks in Peru.

This past week we noted the anniversary of our arrival to "Peru" at the MTC in Provo. Our grandson CP, three years old at the time, knew we were leaving home for our mission to Peru.  As we exited the freeway, his dad Kyle driving, he asked, "Are we in Peru yet?" Without a doubt the most difficult part of being a missionary this past year is missing our grandkids. They are growing, learning, and developing so quickly and we are so far away. The best I can do is order Thomas the Tank Engine components from Amazon and send them to Indiana or other things to Salt Lake and Centerville. We miss our friends in Utah, California, the NCAC of 2011, and our house of course, tucked away in the redwood forest.
CP and his grandparents at the Provo MTC, September 2010
When we can we like to visit a number of Peru's fascinating archaeological sites.
This photo is from the Cechin Bajo site near Casma on one of our trips where we
first experienced cebiche de pato with our friend C.
In honor of our one year anniversary we enjoyed several events. First of all, our friend C. came over last Monday and cooked us cebiche de pollo. He originally intended to prepare cebiche de pato, but C. was unsure about the age of any ducks in the market, therefore he substituted chicken. Pato is duck in Spanish. Unlike traditional cebiche with fish, the pato or pollo dishes are cooked thoroughly. The common denominator being the use of lemon in the marinade.
Preparing the red onions for the cebiche marinade
The washed papas ready for cooking. Once cooked some of the skin or eyes 
were removed. 
In addition to the pollo, he prepared yucca and a new variety of papa or potatoes that we had not tried before. It is similar to huayro papas, but a little different. They are sold in La Parada and we agreed we will go back there again with him to shop for several more varieties of potatoes.
Mixing the marinade in with the pollo. 
After several hours of preparation and cooking the plates are being loaded.
Cebiche de Pollo, papas, and yucca. It was very very good as C. is a great cook.
Next, we enjoyed a very surprising football game between the Utes and Cougars. Who would have thought the game would be so completely lopsided and dominated by Utah? It was in their house too.  A local BYU diehard even gave me six points on the game so we are planning an evening out at our favorite restaurant. We'll likely go to El Hornero as their steaks are very good. Somehow eating "dead meat" is appropriate to honor Coach Bronco and his team's failure to execute.
QB Jake Heaps coughing up one of numerous fumbles against Utah last week.
This weekend we are flying to Trujillo where the new Temple groundbreaking occurred last week. The Lima Temple is closed for the Women's Conference.  We would like to visit the construction site, learn if bicycles can be ridden in that part of Peru, and tour several archaeological sites close by.
Artist's drawing of the new Trujillo Temple. Likely, it will be 9700 square feet
with two endowment rooms making it a little larger the Lima Temple
The largest pre-Colombian city in the Americas is close to Trujillo. It is known as Chan Chan and was built by a pre-Inca people known as the Chimor. Estimates range upwards of 30,000 inhabitants. Marine motifs and engravings of reed boats suggest a seafaring ability.  The Chimor were the descendents of an earlier seafaring culture known as the Moche.  Somewhere among the time period of these two cultures the spread of the Peruvian sweet potato or camote to Polynesia occurred.

The Chimor prospered in their city of Chan Chan for nearly 600 years prior
to the arrival of conquering Incan arnies.
We will have photos and another post from our visit to Chan Chan, Trujillo, and several nearby sites.  We have recommendations for a couple restaurants in the area and the food, according to most travel guides and our Peruvian friends, is better than what we find in Lima, except for our friend C. and Brother and Sister Ramos. The weather is more agreeable too. Among Peruvians Trujillo is recognized as having a perpetual spring or 'primavera eterna' in Spanish.

***Update/Flash:  While we were in Trujillo we received an email from Alice with the news that CP, our four year old grandson, had scored his first goal as a soccer player.  He has grown a lot in a year and has benefited from older brothers teaching him his sweet soccer skills. A parent of a player on the other team observed, "That little red headed boy is the best player on their team."  We will be on the sidelines for 5 year old soccer next season.
CP in the "zone" racing with the ball toward the goal.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Potato Tales from Peru, with Love...

This week has been very enjoyable for us as we were able to meet and work with the new missionaries  assigned to the Lima Temple from the USA.  We shared a little time in training and then had a pleasant lunch and conversation on Sunday. RA and I contributed a dish served cold or at room temperature called 'papas a la huancaina.' Literally it means 'potatoes from Huancayo,' which is a city and district in Peru to the east of Lima in the central highlands.  The original inhabitants, or Huancas as they were known, aside from developing this wonderful recipe for cheesy potatoes supported the Spanish Conquistadores against the Inca. They assumed the Europeans would be better overlords than the Inca.  In hindsight, three hundred years of slavery, and working the Spanish silver mines proved that decision to have been uninformed.
Papas a la Huancaina, courtesy of Wiki.  We did not take any

The potato or papas section in our local grocery store, increíble 
We have found this dish is not often served in Peruvian restaurants as it is easily made at home.  I have included the link to the recipe we used.  The ingredients would not be the same stateside as in Peru but some improvising and substituting is possible.
Huayro potatoes are maybe mi favorita. They have purple skins and streaks
within making them popular with local chip manufacturers. Too good to
waste in chips in my opinion.
Since coming to Peru we have experienced several varieties of potatoes or 'papas' as they are known in the Quechua language. We are coming to appreciate the subtleties of their flavor and texture. Potatoes will never ever be the same again for us as they are so superior to anything from Idaho or east of the Cascades in Washington or Oregon.
Cuy with Can Chan Papas. This type absorbs the flavor of meat or
stews in which they are cooked, excellent.  This dish was prepared by
our friends the Ramos. 

The Andean camote or sweet potato from which Polynesian potatoes are
genetically linked.
Potatoes, like other things we enjoy, originated in the Andean region of South America including, beans, peppers, ground cherries, tomatoes, cotton, several varieties of corn, and peanuts. The earliest potatoes according to several accounts were first cultivated 7 to 10,000 years ago. The first Peruanos or human inhabitants arrived here some 12,000 years ago. One of their first habitations is known as Guitarrero Cave. A human mandible was found there along with remnants of many meals of corn, beans, and peppers. A fire stick, as seen on reruns of TV's Survivorman, was also recovered from the site. I was never successful making fires with one of these as a Boy Scout.
Guitarrero Cave not far from Casma.  These people were likely the ancestors 
of the Chavin long before the Inca but possessed sweet metal working and 
soldering skills. 
The fire stick recovered from Guiterrero Cave
Of potatoes, there are more than 3500 varieties in Peru. Genetically, the Polynesian sweet potato's home was in the Andean altiplano to the south of Peru near Lake Titicacca. The oldest sweet potato discovered, so far in Peru, was found in another cave called the Tres Ventanillas and carbon dated 10,000 years ago in the Chilca Canyon of Huancayo Region.  I wonder how long the Huancas have been cooking papas and with their cheesy pepper potato sauce.  So far, I have not found any information on radio carbon dated Huancaina sauce.

One theory for the spread of the Andean sweet potato discounts the seafaring ability of either early Peruvians or Polynesians and suggests the non European transmission of the sweet potato from Peru to Hawaii and the other islands of the Pacific was accomplished by seeds floating on the surf or carried aloft in the guts of the plover birds.  The problem with this theory of diffusion is  the Peruvian and Polynesian sweet potato must be started from cuttings from a vine.
Sweet Potato vines of Polynesia and Peru
The Nazca culture of early Peru have been suggested as the sailors responsible for these trans Pacific crossings. These are the people who created the giant and strange geoglyphs or Nazca Lines of Southern Peru. They flourished from approximately 300 BCE to 800 CE. A number of marine animals have been caricatured in their pottery and art, giving rise to the belief they were familiar with the sea and were possibly a seagoing people.  Another mysterious geoglyph is above the entrance to Pisco Bay in Paracas. It can be seen about 12 miles out to sea. No one presently knows why it was constructed or what it symblizes. Theories range from it being a symbol for the Andean God Viracocha to a Masonic symbol.  Carbon dating of pottery shards found near it place it during the era of the Paracas Culture of 200 BCE, predating that of the Nazca.
The Candelabra as it is called, taken from the boat on our way to the
Ballestas Islands during our August vacation.
Radio Carbon Dating and DNA studies on residues from the Cook Islands and other island locations disclose the Andean sweet potato arrived there between 1000 and 1100 CE and in Hawaii by 1290-1430 CE. Furthermore, Quechua and Maori I have been told by several of my educated Peruvian friends, share a few language cognates. This information may have come from work in the 1920's by an Italian/Argentine linguist. For example, the word for 'water' in Cusco Quechua is 'unu' while in Maori and Easter Island "unu" is to drink water. A fighting platform in Maori is called a 'puuhara' while in Quechua a 'pukhara' is a fortress.
The Candelabra with better shadowing taken from the Web
Very early on in the expansion of the Inca Empire a technique was developed to freeze dry several varieties of potatoes and fully preserve their nutritional value for extended periods of time.  The process took all of five days from start to finish. This was accomplished without vacuum chambers and liquid nitrogen cryogenic temperatures. This type of dried potatoes is called 'chuño' or 'papas secas.' We are wanting to try them too at some point. The potatoes are laid out at night in the subzero temperatures of the Andes and then exposed to direct sunlight during the day.  They were also flattened several times in the process by the feet of the indigenous Quechua. Once freeze dried they could be stored indefinitely. Carried on the backs of Inca warriors they provided the energy and fueled the expansion of the greatest empire in pre-Colombian Americas.
An Inca mummy in the fetal position.  This type 
of preservation was reserved for the the nobles 
and ruling elites. It was accomplished in the same
manner of freeze drying potatoes. Internal organs 
were first removed and then the drying and freezing 
could begin. 
This extensive variety of Peruvian potatoes has made it possible to keep crops safe worldwide in our era. This potato diversity has been necessary in preventing anything like The Great Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1852. It was the narrowness of so few cultivars or species brought back by the Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries that allowed a blight to infect and destroy harvests in Ireland.  More than a million Irish died of starvation and another million migrated.  The entire population of Ireland was reduced by 25%. Among the emigres were Patrick and Bridget Murphy Kennedy whose grandson Joseph P. would be appointed and return to the British Isles as the Ambassador to the Court of St. James by FDR. He was the founder and Patriarch of the Kennedy dynasty in America.
Patriarch and Ambassador Joe Kennedy Sr. 
The rest, as they say, is history. Among Irishmen the saying goes that "God sent the blight, but the British caused the famine."  Ireland's pastoral countryside was highly desired and taken over by the English because of their taste for beef following the spread of wealth of the industrial revolution.  Reduced to smaller and smaller parcels of growable land, the Irish poor turned to the potato and it became their main food source. Without diversity and with no resistance to blight the Irish potato crops were destroyed. Nowhere else in Europe were the consequences so dire or a people more dependent on the potato for survival than in Ireland.
The face of Irish famine, a mother and her children.
The lowly Peruvian potato or papa has played a much larger role in the story of things, more than being a food source for ten thousand some odd years here in Peru. Life for the potato farmer in Peru is probably not a lot better than his Irish counterparts were in the mid 19th Century. The potato growing regions are among the poorest in the country and local residents struggle to buy their daily bread due to the increases in cost of wheat and transportation.  The government is encouraging its residents to eat more of their own product and also bread made with potato flour. All the while they search for markets abroad for the almost infinite variety and subtlety of colors, textures, shapes and flavors of the Peruvian potato.
Steep slopes and lack of available capital insure traditional back breaking
planting of la papas del Peru
We will continue shopping and cooking this most edible and wonderful tuber. We have had only a half dozen varieties to date, a few thousand more to savor and enjoy. Time will limit this endeavor and also our diets from over indulging. The next time you order fries with your burger consider the potato and appreciate a little more of its history and the influence it has had in these many millennia throughout the world. And yes, lest anyone forget, "La Papa es Peruana."

Further reading and photos of Peruvian papas can be found on a site hosted by Limaeasy.com.