Peruvian Thanksgiving

30 Nov

A late Thanksgiving post is better than no Thanksgiving post, right?  Unfortunately I’ve had some stomach woes the past few days, likely stemming from a little over-adventurousness at an out-of-town street food fair.  It’s a little ironic because when I started writing this entry, one of the things I mentioned being thankful for was having been relatively completely healthy after my first week here.  Oops.

But no worries.  What some people call “dysentery”, I call my patented Third World Diet TM, which I hope to someday turn into a successful business catering to supermodels.  “Why deal with the unpleasantness and cravings of starving yourself,” I’ll tell them, “when you can eat all of these delicious  juanes, cebiche, and paiches a la parilla, and still melt away the pounds?”

Below, details of my Peruvian Thanksgiving (Dia de Acción de Gracias), hosting a “North American-style” barbecue, trying “pantie rippers” and local “drunk food”, and more.

How to Get a “Buchizapa”

While my family and friends back home were about to stuff their faces and shop for discounted electronics, here in Peru, November 24 was just jueves (Thursday).  A regular working day, though I did spend mine traveling to visit an out-of town client, attend a chocolate fair, and give a presentation on an accounting and inventory tracking system I created.  (My nerd consultant side was totally jazzed about that last bit.)

That meant the Thanksgiving feast I wanted to host at my house had to be on Saturday night.  Initially the plan was to go the traditional American route, with turkey, mashed potatoes, and the like.  Unfortunately turkeys are not that common here (though a local acquaintance did refer me to some farm-raised live birds which I would have had to buy and kill personally), and so for that and a host of other reasons the seven of us in Tarapoto that weekend (three Canadians, two Peruvians, a Swiss, and me) ultimately decided to just do a “Peruvian Thanksgiving”.

I wound up making chorizo and arroz con frijoles; Canadian friend Vero made the local specialty maduros con queso (cheese-stuffed plantains, typically grilled, though ours were baked); Fernando whipped up chilcano de pisco cocktails; Armandine brought cake from one of her client businesses; etc.  When it comes to satisfying the basic Thanksgiving requirements of eating and drinking so much you have yourself a bulging buchizapa (the regional slang for “potbelly”), we nailed it.

Estoy Agradecido Por Mis Nuevos Amigos

It was a terrific night, and another reminder that I’m thankful to have a good group of friends here to get into adventures with — which have ranged in variety from our numerous weekend hiking trips, to fist-pumping Jersey Shore-style to a rock cover band gamely trying to mime Steppenwolf, to the time recently-departed volunteer Yun and I brought down the house at a local karaoke bar.  Our singing and dancing to Rihanna & Jay-Z’s “Umbrella” had a room full of complete strangers whipping out their cameras to take photos of us, and we earned a big round of applause at the end of our performance.


There’s the innumerable times we’ve sat, usually at Stonewasi (also home to the best pisco sour I’ve come across), sharing a giant bottle of Peru’s favorite beer, Cusqueña — the tradition here favoring this style of drinking rather than each person ordering individual bottles.  Or giggling as we sample the many varieties of aphrodisiac drinks popular here, many of whose raunchy names were incomprehensible to me until coming across a helpful translation at Bar Musmuki (sample: rompe calzón, aka “panty ripper”).

The discotecas here — in the adjoining town of Morales, actually — can be a really good time.  On the special occasion when we’re up to it, it’s been fun to stay out dancing at Club Macumba to a mix of reggaeton, salsa, and cumbia until 3 or 4am, and then hit up a late-night polleria (chicken joint), or go for caldo de gallina.  The latter is the locals’ “drunk food” of choice, a giant bowl of soup which includes at least a 1/3 chicken on the bone tossed in, and a soft-boiled egg.  I still have no idea how I manage to finish something that heavy at such a late hour, but my experience with this caldo backs up what the locals say: it does wonders for staving off a hangover.

Cheeseburgers, Poutine, Corona = The NAFTA Party

I’ve rarely had any cravings for things I’m missing back home (exception: sushi), but a few weeks back I did have a hankering for a real, thick, juicy hamburger.  What they call hamburguesas here aren’t even close, with the meat being more like fried, crispy, paper-thin hash.  So as a remedy, I purchased a few kilograms of ground beef, along with cheese, hamburger buns, a Western-brand of ketchup I fortuitously found, and all the other necessary accoutrements — and invited my NGO and Peruvian friends over for a barbecue.

I hand-made the patties and grilled up a ton of burgers in the backyard, while a pair of Canadians made french fries from scratch, which they topped with “poutine” gravy.  Although my friend Paul back in the States would later admonish me that “as an American you can’t respect Canadian culture” (Veronique, et al: he was joking!) they were delicious.  Added to the expensive imported Coronas I tracked down (for which I had to introduce the lime-wedge-in-bottle practice to the Peruvians), and my burgeoning reggaeton music collection, it all made for a great North American-themed party.  Not to mention, it was a great taste of home out here in rural Peru!


One Response to “Peruvian Thanksgiving”

  1. nj November 30, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    The overindulgence in food writing leads me to think you have not changed your gluttonous ways. Also as an honorary Canadian I did not enjoy your publishing of anti-Canuck rhetoric. Where are the exciting stories of death-defying adventures? (Oh I guess that’s what the gastrointestinal distress story was about).

    On a lighter note, why are you going to discotecas with elderly people and long balloons?

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