While traveling through small towns and villages in the Sacred Valley, we would often see lots of doors with a bamboo pole attached and with a red crepe-paper "flower"/red plastic bag attached at the end of the pole. Sometimes there would also be a blue flower or blue plastic bag too. I wondered about them momentarily but really thought no more about it. Actually this is a traditional way of notifying both locals and visitors alike that a favorite drink is available at that place.
At the end our time in the Pisac Market, our tour bus was making its way through the narrow streets of Pisac and our Peruvian guide, Rudy, asked if we had noticed the red and blue "flowers" protruding prominently from poles all along the street. He told us that the red flowers indicated that the owner had "chicha" or corn beer for sale there. Chicha is a traditional Andean beer and
the method for the making of Chicha beer, or corn beer, is unique to South American countries but most authentic to Peru and has long been a tradition there. The fascinating method involves the chicha maker (usually women) actually chewing the corn by mouth which then creates a pulp used in the brewing process. Some American craft and/or micro-breweries have introduced their own version of chicha beer based on research of the Peruvian methods.
The following is a partial interpretation and explanation from the "Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales" website: "As per tradition, instead of germinating all of the grain to release the starches, the purple maize is milled, moistened in the chicha-makers mouths ...... and formed into small cakes which are flattened and laid out to dry. The natural ptyalin enzymes in the saliva act as a catalyst and break the starches into more accessible fermentable sugars......". Another "chicha" product I really came to like was the chicha morada candy which our tour guides put out every day --- just a bite-size piece of hard candy, a dark purple color, and a mouth full of joy. Rudy said that chicha morada candy could help to alleviate problems in adjusting to the altitude. Not sure that's universally true, but at least one tour group friend mentioned that it did help her in a small way.
Our guide, Rudy, also explained that where you see blue flower/blue plastic bag on the end of bamboo poles it indicates that the establishment also sells food --- yellow indicates that a drink such as a Pisco Sour or "cañazo" (destiled sugar cane) is sold there. Occasionally you may find a house or establishment with a basket hanging off the house and that might mean they sell bakery items. These are the types of customs which tend to make Peru a very fascinating country.
NOTE: "Chicha" can also refer to a type of wildly popular music which "originated with migrants who came from the Andes to Lima." The Andean folk music known as "Huayno" then fused with Colombian Cumbia music and resulted in Chicha music... a lively, rhythmic uplifting sound. Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khgZPsuF3CY.
Another custom of Peruvian food is "pan chuta bread" which is unique to the Andes. The bread is shaped into a very large, somewhat flat disk and the texture is light and it tastes slightly sweet. We were each given a piece to try, and I can personally attest to how wonderful the bread is --- actually all the Peruvian bread and rolls I had shared these same characteristics and were amazingly delicious. This inexpensive but marvelous pan chuta bread is baked in wood burning ovens, known as Oropesa ovens, and then sold in the markets or on the street where they are found piled in huge stacks. Whether the bread is baked in Pisac or whether it actually comes from the town of Oropesa itself which some consider the center of breadmaking in the Andes, I do not know. But please consider buying some of this bread wherever you find it. The cost is only a few soles each.
Staying a day or two in Pisac offers several advantages for location, scenery, and economy even though the town is quite small; but, if you are in need of a place to stay, my next tip on the Pisac Inn gives you one option of an exceedingly nice place to rest your head at night.
In Peru, guinea pig or cuy is a common dish. My husband had fried cuy in a restaurant and he said it tastes a lot like pork. Literally its served splayed out like a chicken on a skewer, still complete with its little hooves. This is not for the squeemish to eat because you have to chew it off of the bone like fried chicken. My husband also said for the amount of meat you get it really isn't worth the effort. Your hands get quite greasy in the process of trying to eat these little buggers. When you are out and about in Peru, you will often see these small guinea pig villages. I even saw one in the Santa Catalina Monestary in Arequipa. I wonder if you pick out your guinea pig like we pick out lobster in the tank back home?
- Food and Dining
- Arts and Culture
If you wander around the sunday market you will find people from many different ethnic groups. Women use to wear distinctive hats, different depending on which group they come from. Most of them are colourful and very nice to look at.
- Business Travel