Our friends were planning a trip to Peru and asked if we would like to go. I can’t say Peru had been on our agenda for that year, but suddenly it looked like it belonged there. My husband rarely turns down travel, but to be absolutely sure I had his commitment on this one, I reminded him that he was still indebted to me for his recent gaffe.
What did my wonderful Hubbie do that placed him in such debt?? Well, in reality, nothing. The only blame I could genuinely direct his way was for being six foot five, 215 pounds and sometimes being unable to maneuver his large frame with precision. But I can’t resist fueling a bit of nagging guilt if it empowers me with influence. (As one of my former bosses used to say “The Godfather was right. It is always good to have people in your debt. You never know when you might need a favor.”)
To put his gaffe in context, it is helpful to know that I had surgery on my hand earlier that spring — a complicated surgery on my right thumb (yes, I am right-handed). This left me with a molded cast from my elbow to the tips of my fingers for two months and from my wrist to the end of my fingers for the third month.
Shortly after my extremity was released from bondage and still eyeing my new hand with delight, Hubbie and I took our dog, Splash, for a walk. It was a regular morning routine. Except this particular morning was not routine. Unexpectedly, Splash made a quick dash in front of my husband; to avoid tripping on her, he side-stepped, landing on the heel of my shoe (rendering my foot immobile); and his uneven footing made him lose his balance (toward me, of course). As my foot had been effectively nailed to the sidewalk by his foot and the full force of his 6-foot frame was thrown at me, my inevitable and only option was a face-plant onto the concrete sidewalk, right hand sandwiched between me and the sidewalk.
We must have looked like some Vaudeville act, but I didn’t find it funny. My hand hurt like hell. It was swollen, getting purple in spots and not at all happy. I was certain I had damaged my recently-healed thumb. Hubbie was beside himself. I think if he could have smashed his own hand to fix mine, he would have done so. Not believing that would work, I began to sort out a visit to my friendly hand surgeon:
ME: Doc, I fell on right hand, and I’m really worried that I may have damaged my just-healed thumb. Can you tell?!? Is it OK?
DOC (after a bit of inspection): Your thumb looks it came through just fine.
ME: Whew! I’m so relieved.
DOC: However, three of your remaining four fingers are broken.
ME: Ha ha!! You’re such a joker. Very funny. Do you get paid extra for that?
DOC: Not joking.
ME: Sure you are. Even you can’t tell that they are broken simply by looking at them.
DOC: I can’t tell 100%, but I am 99% certain. I’ll prove it with an x-ray.
ME (off to x-ray then back to Doc)
DOC: Confirmed — identical torque breaks on three fingers.
ME: You really aren’t kidding.
Needless-to-say, I milked this one for a long time. Despite lots of finger/paw pointing between Hubbie and our dog, Splash, I insisted that I held them both equally responsible. Now, about that trip to Peru?!?
Needless-to-say, arrangements were made quickly. I think Hubbie thought planning for the trip would distract me from everything else that happened. Either that or he was tired of me entertaining friends with the “walk” story and thought getting me out of the country would put a stop to it.
Whatever the reasons for going, Peru did not disappoint. It dazzled even this seasoned traveler. The cuisine, a blend of Peru’s rich cultural heritage
and astounding natural resources, was a constant treat.
There’s so much to tell about Peru, but, for now, I’ll start with what most impressed me in Lima – the architecture. It was a catalogue of post-European Peruvian history, and it could not be told more beautifully. There were a few striking Spanish Baroque buildings (see above), which reminded me of big, beautiful wedding cakes. There were many examples of Colonial architecture with the distinctive sculpted wood balconies.
This was all interspersed with less beautiful, but very majestic modern architecture.
The frequent use of warm colors in Lima architecture provided a contrast to the often-dreary skies — as if the Peruvians were saying “we will make our own sunshine”.
The Peruvian palette carried through to the cuisine. I don’t think we saw a plate of food in Peru that wasn’t colorful and almost too beautiful to eat. This simple rice dish, first encountered in Lima, is but one example.
While rice is relatively new to Peru, it is now a significant part of the diet. Corn, on the other hand, has been part of the Peruvian diet probably as far back as the Wari culture (1100) – if not before. It is unlike American corn, whiter and with much larger kernels. Arroz a la Peruana is traditionally made with rice and corn, but other vegetables are often added or substituted — for color and flavor. The distinctive ingredient in this dish is the garlic — lots of it.
Arroz a la Peruana
Recipe By: A Global Garnish, LLC
Serving Size: 6
1 tablespoon oil, olive
1 tablespoon garlic, cloves, smashed and chopped
2 cups rice, long grain
4 cups stock, chicken
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup corn, fresh, kernels removed from cob
1/4 cup pepper, sweet red, cut into very small dice
1/4 cup peas
1. Heat olive oil in sauté pan or saucepan with lid. Add chopped garlic and stir until just beginning to brown. Add rice and stir, being sure to scrape garlic off the bottom of the pan (so it does not brown further or burn) and coat rice with oil.
Add chicken stock.
NOTE: No salt is needed if using store-bought or other salted chicken stock. If using homemade unsalted stock, and 1 t salt.
Bring rice to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, give one gentle stir and cover. Cook about 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Turn off heat and let stand covered for an additional 10 minutes.
2. While rice is cooking, melt butter in sauté pan. Add corn and red pepper and stir until corn just begins to brown and pepper is beginning to soften. Set aside.
3. Remove rice from saucepan into bowl. Add corn, peppers and peas. Stir gently but thoroughly.
At service time, reheat rice if needed. Mold rice in measuring cups or ramekins and unmold onto plates.