First stumbling block
Does your child have a guinea pig, hamster, or gerbil for a pet? If so, this article may not be for you.
Like trying different foods?
Then, this blog, my friend, is for you.
On the menu today is….
Freshly roasted guinea pig.
Where are you?
Cuenca, Ecuador, in the mountains
I dare you!
“Try it!” he urges.
My husband invites a squirming me to sample roasted guinea pig (el cuy—pronounced kwee) in a specialized restaurant in Cuenca, Ecuador. A local insists we cannot leave Cuenca until we enjoy their favourite meal passed down from the Inca. For those who consider the guinea pig a pet, a visit to the Guajibamba restaurant is not advised.
The Inca used guinea pigs in ways other than food. Sensitive little mammals, the small creatures were kept inside indigenous homes because they acted as warning bells, detecting earthquakes before they actually happened. When an earthquake was imminent, the little pigs ran around randomly squealing; people recognized their bizarre behaviour as a warning. Immediately, they left their homes.
Medicinally, the local shaman also used the guinea pig as a healing source. Holding the rodent in his hands while chanting, he passed the animal over and around the patient, exorcising the evil spirit and sickness from the body. After the treatment, the rodent was killed and gutted.
Our guide explained the shaman ‘then read the rodent’s internal organs’. He could tell from its black colour which of the patient’s internal organs were affected.
The process served as an Inca x-ray.
Culinary experience – eat the roasted guinea pig
Guinea pig meat is apparently healthy: high in protein, low in cholesterol and easy to digest. Still, looking on your plate at the spit- roasted creature with bared fangs and paws sticking straight up in the air is a bit disconcerting.
Book in advance
You must book a reservation in advance since a fresh guinea pig takes at least one hour to roast. The dish is served with boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, corn and a hot sauce.
“Be sure to eat the crunchy skin!” our companion tells us. “Especially the crispy ears.”
After a few bites, my husband finds his roasted guinea pig, including the liver, palatable, even delicioso. And before he gets a chance, I reach over, break off and finish those crispy crackling ears.
Travelled: January, 2011
See other posts from Ecuador