I forgot some very important topics… so here’s a part 2
Beer & booze
Alcohol is sold at any store, no conservative regulations here. There is a legal drinking age as per usual but I have no idea when drinking really starts here. I have heard that if you have a party, you would be expected to provide alcohol (although I don’t know if all the alcohol) and that folks will literally drink until they drop thus they will crash at your place and only leave the next day.
There are of course the national brands – some good and some not so good beer according to Ross who knows from experience of hangovers which are better beers and which are not. We enjoy cusqueña, the beer from Cusco, the most. The price of beer is similar to Quebec, not like the ridiculous prices we pay in Nova Scotia. They have what are called personal size beer bottles, like our standard size beer bottle only a slightly different shape – which are not recycled. Then the next size up is ½ liter called grandes which are recycled and deposit paid. Why these and not the smaller ones who knows. The cans are also not recycled to our knowledge, and in this case I mean by street recyclers. Plastic bottles on the other hand are recycled by street recyclers going to some factory for reprocessing or shipped elsewhere for hopefully repurposing.
We do see folks drinking beer on the streets, usually in small parks and not just in tourist areas. I think it is technically illegal but tolerated as long as you are discreet about it and of course this depends on what neighbourhood you are in.
As for drinking when we go out, I now know what is a good price and what is not. Some bars, more local non-tourist joints, have good prices for the grandes. Some places you can even get one liter and 1.5 beer bottles – I mean why not. There is more of a culture of sharing your booze – passing the bottle from person to person – thus the big bottles.
Side note: Folks here have not adopted or are not familiar with the cough, sneeze in your elbow technique, so I am not surprised that illnesses circulate freely here, especially if bottles of drink are being passed around.
At nightclubs the prices can be exorbitant so you drink draft but we are cautious of this since the glasses often come wet from being freshly washed and we are talking about the place not using filtered water for the washing. We think we may have gotten ill from drinking draft so we now avoid it. As you would do in Canada you drink before you go out.
As I am just not a drinker, I have yet to try any wine so can’t comment. Just not meeting wine drinkers, everyone we have hung out with drinks beer!
The national drink is the Pisco Sour, pisco being a type of brandy made from grapes and carrying the namesake of the place where it originated, Pisco, near Paracas (see my post about our visit to this place). You can of course have tours of the distilleries with tastings. I had my 1st pisco sour after we signed our apartment lease, a catedral (cathedral) size drink. Besides a large quantity of the pisco, there is key lime (lemons), angostura bitters, syrup, whipped egg whites and ice. Alas as I am not a hard alcohol drinker especially if I can taste the hard liquor, I really didn’t care for it, finding it taste similar to a tequila sour mixed drink.
I have since had another drink with the pisco which was delish. This was with (sweetened condensed) milk and carob (algarrobina) syrup, kinda like a white Russian. Carob is way popular here and cultivated here, the syrup being a staple on supermarket shelves. The syrup is used for cakes, on ice cream, and just in milk as you would use chocolate or strawberry syrup. I have never been a fan of carob pseudo chocolate chips to use in baking. When I was a vegetarian and using soy milk I tried making chocolate chip cookies with them. Sorry but it is not a substitute for real chocolate. I should have known – it is absolutely a sacrilege not using super good quality real chocolate chunks in chocolate chip cookies!! So if you get this out of your head, you can enjoy it for what it is. As I tend to come home with foods from the places I travel to I do plan on bringing home a good size bottle of the syrup. It is also common to order at a bar a chilcano which would be a bottle of the 26 oz. variety of pisco so a big bottle (where can you do that in North America?) a large bottle of ginger ale, lemon and ice then mixing these ingredients and sharing this at your table. I like the idea of being able to consume/purchase a large bottle instead of having to pay for exorbitantly priced individual mixed cocktails.
Peru is a coffee producing nation, both organic and conventional varieties. However, we have discovered that there really is no coffee culture in this country as you would often find in other coffee growing countries or other warm climates. It is a relatively recent phenomena to have cafes which primarily serve coffee. There are plenty of S t a r b u c k s which we have visited a few times in our attempts to find a place just to have a good cup of coffee. I know some of you will go eww! But I go ewww to T i m s so there! Unfortunately, I was thoroughly disappointed in the coffee – so ridiculously weak!! but I guess they are making it to the cultural taste of the locals.
When we first arrived in the city we were in the upscale neighbourhood where all the tourists go so this area did have plenty of cafes which were filled with many patrons not just tourists. I have since learned to ask for a double shot of espresso to at least make it not taste like water flavoured coffee. Having more milk than coffee is also a common way to serve the beverage. They don’t seem to understand that one might just want a bit of milk (ore coffee cream – cannot get this here) not half the cup with milk unless of course you are having a cappuccino or latte. When you do go to a coffee shop, not a chain place, you do get a good cup of coffee, and for a decent price, around $3 instead of back home where you are now paying about $4-5 or more in bigger cities.
As is often the case, most of the coffee, organic and otherwise, is exported. (the bulk of organic produce is exported as well primarily to the EU, and to a lesser extent to the U.S.). I had learned that instant coffee would be found in most folks’ homes. I can’t confirm this since as I have noted elsewhere we are not invited into the homes of Limeños or Peruvians. As we are on a limited income with our monthly living allowance which is for 2 people, unlike most volunteers who are covering the costs of just themselves. Unfortunately the cost of organic coffee in the stores is 3 to 4 times the price of conventional coffee. As daily coffee drinkers we must watch our costs and so we purchase a Peruvian coffee from the grocery store – at least we are buying local. We tried the cheapest to start with and continue to drink this since it is actually very good – nothing like the cheap shit stuff you get back home. Just to note we are talking about non-instant coffee. We of course traveled with our trusted bodum aka French press.
There are plenty of small organic coffee growers and you can find their products in the small organic/natural health food stores and each organic farmers market will have one producer for sale. It is here that the prices are affordable and so on occasion we do purchase this coffee. Cuso is actually supporting through placement of volunteers a coffee cooperative in the San Martin region of the Amazon jungle, in the north of the country, Cooperativa Agraria Cafetalera Oro Verde. This will be the place we visit when we do our Amazon adventure vacation.in September.
Coffee is often served when there are meetings, a small pot of strong coffee. I thought great but then was thinking how was this small pot going to be able to provide a cup to everyone. I finally figured out that what you were expected to do was fill your cup perhaps a quarter full and then top it off with hot water as there would also be a thermos with hot water. I thought this was for tea drinkers but then there was never any tea on offer. Well my bad but I would fill up my cup full with the coffee. No milk was offered usually, just sugar which was fine even if not my preference.
Of course I will be bringing home some coffee which I will treasure. Over the years, I have brought home coffee from Jamaica, Costa Rica, Cuba, Argentina and Hawaii. The latter place was the first time I paid what would be a fair price for the coffee, double the usual price. This was because the coffee plantation workers were actually paid a fair wage. The owner of the coffee farm had good workers which he wanted to keep thus he showed he valued them by fairly compensating them. I do believe that Hawaiin coffee is a premium variety so that helps as well.
So it turns out that Peru is one of the major producers of this vegetable but the vast majority of it is for export to … you guessed it the E.U., and we are not talking about organic asparagus. It has been relatively recently introduced, so it isn’t a common vegetable that Peruvians eat. As elsewhere it is a premium vegetable although less so than in NA.
I don’t plan on writing a lot on this subject. Check out http://www.asparagus-lover.com/should-we-buy-peruvian-asparagus.html which explains it all very well. I know the information presented on this website is accurate and more or less up to date, confirming what I have been told by others who know about agricultural production in this country. In a nutshell, asparagus is being grown in the desert region of Peru. It is a water hog vegetable here and industrial farms are devouring the water from aquifers at an unsustainable rate, leaving little for the rural villages let alone small producers.
What I want to add is that it is just so unfair that the economic gains don’t go to the people who need it the most. One may not see abject poverty as much in Lima but as in any city that is often where much wealth is concentrated even if concentrated in a minority of hands. It just doesn’t have to be this way. Unfairness is just built into the capitalist system – when will people learn this or when will humans with power not all be sociopaths? These are rhetorical questions of course.
I have yet to try white asparagus. I could have while I was in Europe a few years ago seeing in the grocery stores but it didn’t look particularly fresh so decided not to.
All I can say is please by local local local… and on that note, our farm caretaker should have asparagus for sale very soon. Contact me if you want some. Cheers and thanks for reading. Happy spring!