When we think about culture, we think about many aspects: the language, the clothing, the mannerisms, etc. Today we got to experience one of my favorite features of culture: the food. Instead of our typical morning of learning Spanish phrases and grammar, we started off today with a cooking competition to see who could make the best papas a la huancaína, a dish consisting of boiled potatoes slathered in a rich cream sauce and topped off with hard boiled eggs.
We began the morning creating posters and decorations for the tables where we would present the food. Then, the competition started heating up. There were four teams consisting of three or four students, and each had a turn to prepare this delicious Peruvian dish. The preparation is simple: peel and slice the boiled potatoes, throw peppers, milk, cheese, and crackers into a blender, and dump it all on a plate and make it look pretty. Despite this simplicity, every sauce was different because we all came with secret tips from our host-parents. Some parents advised students of special ingredients to add, such as lemon or oil, while others gave suggestions on preparation, such as soaking the crackers in the milk before blending them. Once everyone finished preparing their delicacies, it was time for the competition to begin.
We were evaluated in three areas: flavor, explanation, and presentation. For the explanation each group had to explain what ingredients they used, how they prepared the dish, and the secrets and tips they received from their host-parents. Points were given for presentation based on the decorations on the table and the appearance of the food. Every team took their own original spin on their presentation: some dishes were laid out as a gourmet meal, while others took the form of flowers or faces. The winning group, however, used this famous dish from Peru to present the different places we have traveled in Peru; they prepared their dishes to look like Huanchaco Beach, Huacas del Sol y la Luna, El Cultural, and the Plaza de Armas.
After they announced the winners, Katelyn, Sam, Regina, and Hailey, we all had a chance to eat our own papas a la huancaína and sample the delectable creations of the other groups. Each group's dish was as unique and rich as the tips given by our host-parents. After filling up on these amazing delights, we had to make room for the most important meal of the day in Peru: lunch. We concluded our cooking competition by setting out to find more food.
After a morning of preparing and eating delectable dishes, it was time for us to return to El Cultural to finish learning the saucy dance of the marinera. We started by learning more footwork that we could use at the end of the dance. Then we reviewed the parts of the dance that we had learned the previous week: el Reto (the Challenge), la Saluda (the Greeting), and las Medialunas (the Half-moons). We then learned the remaining parts to the dance, which involved a lot of switching spots, using footwork, and showing lots of attitude. After a week in Trujillo, we have now learned the very basics of the Marinera.
With about a half-hour to spare, we started learning a new dance: an Afro-Peruano dance. This dance was very different from the Marinera. The Marinera tells a story of a man pursuing a woman and involves a lot of attitude and a lot of flourishes with a hand-cloth. The Afro-Peruano dance is a lot of stepping, and a lot of hips. We ended the dance lesson exhausted from the dancing but energized by all of the cultural experiences that we got to be a part of today. Through cooking authentic Peruvian dishes to stepping authentic Peruvian dances, today marks a turning point in our cultural experience: we are no longer simply witnesses to the culture, but partakers. We are not simply tasting the foods or watching the dances, but are starting to become a part of the rhythm of Trujillo. This is why I prefer studying abroad over going on vacation; I am not simply visiting Trujillo, but rather, I am living in Trujillo.Gracias for following us on our adventures in Peru!