Our specialty is Guinea Pig
There is only one way to know the taste of something, and as every small baby knows, that’s by sticking whatever the curiosity may be directly into your mouth and hoping for the best, which on a side note, explains why if babies could write, they would make our societies best, and least pre-judgmental food writers.
This somehow applies to a first experience eating Cuy, the specialty of Peru. Sometime ago between the cities of Cuzco and Nazca, in a deep valley we camped along a river where a Peruvian of Italian descent lived with his family. His home straddled a small agricultural plot, and possessed a dark room full of white and beige spotted Guinea Pigs. Outside of their home they had an adobe, wood burning oven whose embers glowed with warmth and whose cavernous belly called out for a feast to be born within.
Our host, lacking nothing in hospitality, approached 4 of the fattest Guinea Pigs, and readily prepared them for cooking. The process involving a quick end to their short lives, skinning, bleeding, seasoning and, well, that’s about it, no dismemberment, even the little teeth get included in the roasting process. If there is any issue with eating Guinea Pig from a foreigners standpoint, it’s probably that Guinea Pigs are kind of cute, but don’t worry, once skinned and gutted they really aren’t very cute anymore, however another issue arises which is that they suddenly look extremely similar to a rat. Anyway, who’s to say one rodent is better than another…
Sitting on the porch of our home for the night, spotting vultures high up in the hot valley air, sipping the local beer and contemplating the little sand bugs biting my legs, our host then arrived with the finished product, a glazed, petrified looking version of the previous furry beast. With a calm smile he broke off a leg, so tenderly cooked that it appeared to detach of its own will, and handed me the prized morsel. Delicately gripping the little femur, and smelling the beautiful roasted meat smell, I took a hearty bite of muscle, fat and crispy skin… Salty, high fat content, easy to chew and calling for one to use their teeth to grab all the little bits of meat left on the bone… yummy. Safe to say that foreigners pre-conceptions of eating such an animal, similar say, to eating a dog perhaps, are misguided.
Too many of us have lost all touch with what we eat. Let us stare deep into the eyes of a steer and pet its neck before going to eat at our neighbor’s long weekend barbecue, go feed your goldfish before having an all you can eat salmon sushi night, or at the least attempt to eat an animal that still holds some resemblance to it’s original state (a whole quail perhaps, or a full trout)
Anyway, Guinea Pig is a fine animal, and a Peruvian specialty, but from what I have been reading of late, a meatless, nut-based diet may be the only hope for the future of humankinds sustainable food supply. So as much as I love it, I’m done with Guinea Pig, but like a satiated baby with greasy fingers, I’m happy I stuck it in my mouth.