When the Spanish conquistador set foot on the lands of ancient Peru during the first decades of the now remote XVI century, he found no better way of satiating its desire for food than trying the corn, the potato, the peanut, the yucca, the sweet potato, the dried and salted fish, the exquisite alpaca meat and the outstanding chilli.
In order to keep his identity, he added some elements of his own stock of food to all this: some fine cloves of garlic, the acid juice of the lemons, and a shot of olive oil. At that precise moment one of the best cuisines in the world begun to gestate: the Peruvian.
The gastronomy ambit was
therefore the best means of understanding between the native inhabitant
of Peru and the Spanish conquistador. An understanding that was
founded on the basics, as some scholars put it, for the most permeable
part of a culture is its food, and it is the closest to pleasure,
to necessity and to hunger.
In the course of these transformations the Spaniards accounted for full herds of alpacas, and substituted the bread made of wheat for the one made of corn. And right after they established themselves in the cities they founded whilst subduing the empire, they were clever enough to send for rice, wheat, olives, sugar, and the sugarcane as well, from the Iberian Peninsula, besides full herds of pigs, sheep and cows.
All these ingredients were mixed on the conquistador's dining table. They assumed new forms. Displayed new aromas. Created new tastes. As soon as the Spaniard got used to eating corn and potatoes, the ancient Peruvian inhabitant learned to eat wheat, pork and beef, and naturally, they gained the use of species.
We need to include two additional elements to this interesting culinary crossbreeding: the Moor hand of the Arab female cooks the Spaniards brought with them, and the hand of the black slaves, which arrived in great numbers in the two subsequent centuries.
And so from that centenarian process emerged the terrific Peruvian
cebiche, the archaic carapulcra criolla, the skewers
of bullock heart, the tamales of the sierra wrapped on achira leafs,
or the spicy ají de gallina.
The traveller arriving to Lima will irremediably
initiate a romance with Peruvian cookery. A romance that can have
but one destination: pleasure.