Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Food, More Food, and Bananas

Last week I visited the lovely Mistura, Latin America's largest food festival, which was conveniently being hosted in Lima. Unfortunately we had to buy our tickets a few days beforehand, and I was dreading the long boring queues that I had been told were inevitable. However, we must have struck lucky with our timing. Arriving in the morning on the opening weekend, we slipped in seamlessly with no waiting required, ready to taste the delicious food on offer. I lost my friends in the crowds whilst there so spent the time exploring on my own, and I wasn't short of scrumptious choice.

The Entrance Gate

It was a strange payment system however, with each customer being required to buy a set of tokens, which could then be exchanged for food and drink. At first I was confused by this seemingly useless middleman, but I suppose it was an ingenious way to get the maximum dollar out of each visitor. Indeed, I purchased 20 soles of tokens at the beginning, and would have left sooner than I did had I not had 4 soles left over at the end (which I spent on a freshly squeezed orange juice).

A token - 
this one worth only one measly sol

Although I wanted to try EVERYTHING (apart from the seafood), my appetite and wallet would not allow, so I opted for the tastiest burger I have ever had in my life (cooked to perfection, and stacked with an array of fresh, beautiful ingredients and sauces, all in a lovely soft bun), a strange 'fruit' tea that was a slightly off-putting brown colour and tasted a little bit like week-old kettle water, and of course, my healthy juice of a 'naranja'.

At first I was a little underwhelmed, but to be fair, we had arrived just as the gates opened, and for the first hour and a half there were little in the way of crowds. But as the people started to pour in, so did the atmosphere, and I began to see what all the fuss was about. I left with the impression it was smaller than I had thought though, but was informed afterwards by one of my friends that I had only been in the first 'section', and had missed a vast chunk of the festival. This was a shame, but I couldn't have eaten any more anyway, so it wasn't the end of the world.

Just getting started

However, despite its popularity, there are clearly some factions of society that are not so enamoured with Mistura. As I walked back out of the entrance gate, there was a silent but visible protest telling all the visitors that the food festival they are about to enjoy is in fact an 'animal holocaust'. I must admit, it isn´t the most vegetarian-friendly of places.

Making a stand

And as I am on a food streak, I might as well mention the local food market that I went to this week. Not far from where I live, this lively, eclectic mish-mash of high-end to incredibly affordable food stalls sets up every Sunday. I was almost overwhelmed with choice - but, wanting a few fruits and vegetables, I walked around the busy marketplace wondering how I could get the best value for money in my broken Spanish. In the end I gave up trying to mentally work out which stall holders looked like they sold produce for the cheapest price, and just plumped for one at random, pointing and saying words, ending up buying a kilo of onions instead of potatoes in the process. My life now revolves around working out how to shoe-horn onions into everything I eat.

It is an amusing place though. Part of it is located in a big 'warehouse' (for want of a better word), , smells unpleasant, and is full of flies because the fish and meat just sits out in the warm waiting for a buyer. There are even plucked chickens, completely whole (beaks, eyes, and claws included), that hang in all their glory from every other market stall . However, questionable hygiene practices aside, it is a highly vibrant and interesting place, and I managed to buy a huge range of fruits and veg for a ridiculously low price. Exciting purchase of the day? A bunch of teeny-tiny bananas. I just couldn't resist:

Baby bananas
(the normal-sized one is there for scale - it's not even mine)

So, now I've made myself suitably hungry, I'll say my goodbyes and go and eat some onions.

Buenas Noches!

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