Munaychay, Peru – Sunday roast from the children’s room

The topic persecutes me for quite a while, but I didn’t want to expect dealing with it of my highly strung readership. Now I can’ prevent it any more. Because we did eat guinea pigs: the small cute mammals, lonely company of even lonelier people, only children’s playmates, cheeping woolly pigs. Most people might have heard of the odd Peruvian custom to eat our living toys. But it isn’t known how widespread this habit really is.

Guinea pigs were brought to North America and Europe in the 16th century. They were kept and bred absolutely for culinary purposes, but could never gain acceptance compared to traditional animals kept for meet production, and slowly they became just pets. In South America (and Africa as well) they are liked eating especially in Peru and the bordering countries, among them mainly Ecuador and Colombia. There is evidence that the domesticated form of guinea pigs exists since at least 900 BC, but probably much longer, since over 5,000 years. In former times they were the poor man’s protein supplier, but in recent years they developed into a delicacy and became expensive (around 15 US$ per piece), so that people think of the rodents as a good source of income.

The humanitarian project Corazones para Perú has a chicken and guinea pig breeding in the agricultural holding Santa Rosa beside the children’s village Munaychay partially for personal needs but mainly for sale. Employees and volunteers can get a prepared guinea pig for 30 Nuevo Soles (12 US$) with side dishes. We ordered two of them for dinner and will soon share the opinion of most other travellers: nothing special. It doesn’t taste like chicken as some claim, the meet is darker and more intense without having the fine game taste of pheasant or wild hare.

The skin is thick and tough as old boots, actually not edible. There is nearly no meat at the chubby rodent. The animal seems to consist more of intestines and fur. Therefore the innards are always part of the meal to fill the eaters’ bellies. The preparation may be another reason for our lack of enthusiasm: The roast has been in the oven for too long time, the meat is dry, and besides oversalted. Well, we’ve tried it, think it’s o.k. to eat though not worth striving for. The village’s dog Meilo who suffers more than the rest of the village from protein deficiency will take pleasure in the leftovers tomorrow.

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