Convents and Cooking

Arequipa, the main square

Arequipa, the main square

After a brief stop in Lima, Peru, we escaped to Arequipa. Arequipa is a beautiful city nestled near several volcanoes in Southern Peru.  The climate is great unless you don’t like sun – 330 days of sun every year.  Elevation is a comfortable 2400 meters.  It is called the white city. Two stories support this. One is that the city itself looks very white because many of the buildings are made out of a white volcanic stone called “sillar”, which looks a little like travertine.  Another story is that the city was inhabited by Spaniards instead of indigenous people, and the Spaniards all have white skin.

Our guide holding up just a couple of the unusual fruits

Our guide holding up just a couple of the unusual fruits

We spent the better part of a day in Arequipa learning to be Peruvian chefs.  This started with a tour of the local market place, one of those crazy ones jam packed with vendors and stalls, and really narrow aisles.   There are some crazy things there:  frog organ drinks, dried baby alpacas, religious tokens, special drink concoctions which taste awful but are supposedly good for one illness or another, guagua bread dolls, all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and a huge array of non-food products.

One finds many unusual things in the market

A dried alpaca may be placed under the foundation of a house for good fortune.

What do they do with the religious tokens?  They use them as an offering or prayer to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) to acquire or accomplish something in their life.  Our guide said she didn’t necessarily believe in them, but last year she bought a little red car token, since she needed a car, and she prayed for a little red car and now she owns one!  Sometimes you buy a token and offer it to mother earth (Pacha Mama),  and your luck will improve – maybe a new love when you don’t have one now!

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Guaguas Dolls

Guaguas Dolls

Guagua bread dolls  – now this is a weird custom we did not understand at all.  Guagua bread dolls are a tradition related to All Souls Day and All Saints Day. They supposedly represent a child that has died.  Bread is made into baby shapes, often with plastic baby faces.  These are given as gifts, placed on a table or even taken to grave sites.  Our guide explained that sometimes there is a family gathering and all the members of the family actually hold the ‘baby’ and pretend it is real, and they are each a mother/aunt/brother/cousin etc. to this ‘baby’.  But in the end they eat the ‘baby’!  Go figure.

We did it!

We did it!

Our cooking class proved to us that Peruvian food really is good!   As a group we made stuffed peppers (Rocoto Rellenos), potato dish (Pastel de Papa) and a great vegetable salad and polished it all off with a drink called Chicha Morada, made from purple corn.  In the process of cooking we learned how to peel a tomato and turn the peel into a beautiful rose decoration.  Pretty fancy!

Wash basins the nuns use for washing their clothes. They use their nun-hands to divert the water from central trough into their wash basin.

Wash basins the nuns use for washing their clothes. They use their nun-hands to divert the water from central trough into their wash basin.

The rest of our time in Arequipa we spent mostly touring around.  One of the interesting places is a convent, which, in its heyday, had over 150 cloistered nuns. It used to be the wealthy Spanish families would send their second daughter or son into religious service.  This was a “privilege” because the prospective nun or monk would be highly educated. Trade off was a life dedicated to God and the Church and no time in the community for good behavior!  Because the families were wealthy they built houses for their daughters so the monastery gradually became a walled town within a town, and each nun had a pretty nice home with servants.  That did not last forever; eventually a mother superior was appointed who decided the nuns needed to lead a more austere, community life, and the party was over.

More of our favorite photos are below. Click on one to go into slide show mode with captions.

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2 thoughts on “Convents and Cooking

  1. Sandy Koontz

    This is all so amazingly interesting. I am not a traveler so it is fun to enjoy it with you. I don’t see how you find the time to produce this amazing blog.

    Reply
    1. danmarshall22 Post author

      Hi Sandy – Glad you’re enjoying it. How do we have the time? Great question! We just fit it in because we want to keep in touch with our friends and family this way!

      Reply

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