"Colon"-ary Experiences!!

The border from Argentina to Bolivia was just another "crossing" along our journey. Sure, we were excited for the cheap prices and unique culture, but what we ended up getting far surpassed our expectations. There were many cultural changes that we readily accepted and loved; however, the food changes took the cake, minus the stomach issues associated with this new food culture. Argentine and Chilean meals, for the most part, centered around meat and white bread. Vegetables, whole grains, and fruits were a rarity in restaurants and home cooking. If we wanted to fill up on veggies (since we can't take that many on the trail, we rely heavily on veggie-loading while in towns) we had to do it on our own, meaning cooking most of our meals in the places where we stayed. This wasn't negative at all; in fact, it was ideal since prices in Argentina and Chile are on the steep side. Plus, quite often we were able to find perfectly ripe and flavorful produce in the stores. When we did go out for a meal it was usually along the lines of a cheese pizza with only a few tomatoes and olives, a vegetarian sandwich, or something relating to a salad. We did enjoy some aspects of Argentine and Chilean cuisine of course - the excessive amount of fresh basil they piled on top of pizzas, empanadas, the sweets such as alfajores, ice cream and dulce de leche, and of course, the wine! 

Bolivia was breath of fresh air, or a taste of fresh food rather - vegetarian based meals, whole grains, and spice - and for practically no financial cost (albeit there was a health cost...). It was just as cheap to eat out in a restaurant as it was to buy groceries and cook a meal, so we found ourselves often frequenting the local eateries and street vendors. Not only did this expose us to a wide range of local flavors and dishes, but it also revealed to us an impressive variety of stomach bugs. We had been warned of the food and water bacterial issues from Bolivia northward, so we knew we were being aggressive with the food, but often it was just too good to pass up!! Entirely invigorated with these new foodways, we tried everything Bolivia had to offer and more: 

  • Api and pastel - Api is a warm white or blue corn-based drink spiced with cinnamon and sugar. It is always served with a side of fry bread (similar to a beignet) served plain, with powdered sugar, or our favorite, stuffed with salty cheese AND topped with powdered sugar (if you want). 
  • "Milanesa" is the word for a chicken-fried steak sandwich in Argentina (we've referred to its deliciousness in previous blog posts). In Bolivia it means a set two-course $1.50USD meal of heart-warming broth-based vegetable soup (sometimes with meat) and a plate of rice, vegetables, and meat or eggs.
  • Chicha - the "wine" of Bolivia in the form of spit-harvested fermented corn (yes, spit). This is not our favorite. 
  • PICANTE!! (spicy salsa) - Bolivia has got some spice! The dishes themselves aren't spicy, but a mini bowl of picante is on the table in every restaurant and on the counter of ever street vendors' cart. The locals are always impressed by our ability to put back some picante.  
  • Salteñas - A relative of the empanada but made with a sweet corn flour dough and filled with a veggie-ful stew. You have to take care when eating these pockets of tastiness because the stew-y sauce on the inside will spill out everywhere! These are usually served with some type of picante - which we generously add.
  • Tucumanas - Similar to the salteña but wheat flour based, deep-fried, and with not so much of a liquid stew mixture as a potato-veggie mixture inside. The topping for these can vary from pickled onions to cucumber to various picantes.
  • Coca leaves - In the rural areas nearly everyone has a wad of coca leaves stuck between their lower gum and lip. They use a sugar gum to bring out the coca high and make the slightly bitter taste more palatable (possible a reason behind all the toothless smiles). It is also very common to put the leaves in hot water for coca tea - our preferred way of have the leaves. 
  • Sopa de maní (peanut soup) - This soup is traditionally lightly peanut-flavored with a blended potato base (giving it a polenta-like texture). It also comes in powdered form so we have added it to our dinner menu!
  • Sopa de Verduras: So many varieties of vegetable soup! Usually with rice, quinoa, noodles or potatoes and plenty of leafy greens! 
  • Potatoes and sheep's cheese - Our new friend Filomena (a rural Bolivian native who moved to Israel with her Israeli husband ten years ago), shared her mother's precious potatoes and goat cheese with Sonnet and Trinity - one of the best things they claim to have ever tasted!! Shelley and I are still waiting for our experience with this one. 
  • Quinoa and fresh cheese: This little plate is served up from breakfast to mid-day. The quinoa is hot, garnished with a few steamed green onions and other greens and a spoonful of fresh, soft cheese. Of course picante is an option!  

Shelley and Sydney buying saltenas in Potosi 
All the stunningly vibrant colors of Bolivian spices
Shelley and Sydney "enjoying" chicha at a village party
The always reliable vegetable soup 
Rice, potatoes, fried eggs, and tomatoes - a lunch staple 
The Tres Chicas enjoying api! One of our all time faves!

Heading into Peru we were saddened to say goodbye to the salteñas and tucumanas of Bolivia but eager to see what Peru had to offer. Essentially the same food concepts in Peru comprise the cuisine base (especially in the Andean regions), yet there is a stronger meat component in the meals which seems to partially replace the quinoa-veggie power combo of Bolivia. However, when we arrived in the Lake Titicaca region we were welcomed with a wholesome seafood aspect as Peruvian cuisine has a significant fish influence from both the lakes and the ocean. Regional influences also seem to play a stronger role in Peruvian cuisine with notable differences in the North, South and Coast (as well as the Amazon but that is out of our food-sphere). We welcomed the new foodways of Peru and had some delectably gourmet meals in Cusco. Some other of our favorite Bolivian traditions continued on, including fresh fruit and veggie smoothies, markets, and fried eggs always as a substitute for meat. Unfortunately thus far we have not fared any better with the stomach illnesses - it is probably safe to say that we will not have normal functioning bowels until once back in the states. 
  • Cuy - guinea pig - considered a delicacy here. They serve it sliced, diced and on a stick. Guinea pigs run freely around people's homes like chickens do elsewhere 
  • Alpaca - A surprisingly tender and flavorful meat, this can be found on menus where one would normally find beef.
  • Pisco - The "wine" of Peru, pisco is a liquor made from grapes. Pisco goes in everything but it is especially delicious in Pisco Sours and Vino Caliente (hot mulled wine).
  • Chicha Morada - Different from the Bolivian "corn beer" this refreshing chicha is made from blue corn, spices and lemon. 
  • Mazamorra - Arroz con leche (ride pudding) with a sweet blue corn sauce on top and garnished with shredded coconut and sweetened condensed milk! What a treat and all for about $0.50 USD. 
  • Chicharrones - Basically fried pork - skin, fat, whatever. They also do other meat variations so if you're not so much of a fried pork fat person you can opt for fried chicken fat. 
  • Chuafas - A South American take on fried rice. There is a decent Chinese cuisine influence in Peru - Chinese restaurants are called Chifas.
  • Choclo con queso - A street food of corn on the cob served with cheese and sometimes a spicy sauce 
  • Coffee!! For the first time on our trip we have been able to find good coffee..quite appreciated!
  • Ceviche - Fish or shellfish "cooked" in lime juice. It's very tangy and usually served with red onions and some other veggies with a side of rice. I was able to find some great hearts of palm ceviches (note seafood allergy) in Ecuador
  • Maca - A root vegetable native to the Peruvian and Bolivian high Andes, it is most commonly served dried then mixed into a warm drink. Perfect on a cold day! 
  • Ají - as opposed to "picante" in Bolivia

The most delectable chocolate covered donuts - simply irresistible. This lady also
made my tasty birthday cake. She was quite the baker! 
One of the hundreds of varieties of potatoes. There used to be over 4,000
types of potatoes in Peru, but now there are only about 500 
We could never get enough of the fresh produce 
Spice everywhere!!! So many flavors and colors, it was simply divine 
Noodles topped with a plethora of fresh vegetables 
A common street-side stand serving up a super sweet cinnamon drink
Yup, the little guys are a raised-for-consumption animal  
A Chifa meal - wonton soup (nothing like U.S. wonton soup) and a chaufa dish 
We always called these little eggs "quail eggs" but turns out they are from a bird called Codorniz

It took almost our whole time in Peru to finally try the little egg nuggets of flavor, and
afterwards we couldn't believe we had waited so long! The small hard-boiled eggs were amazing!
Plus they peel them for you and serve them with a spicy sauce. Too good!  

As we continue on our journey, the culinary experiences never cease to impress us. Each region and culture teaches us so much solely through food - food is the center of all cultures. We have seen how communities and families work together, how modern foodways have effected the rural regions, and how some people are so deeply rooted to their indigenous ways and histories. Despite the colon effects from our culinary adventures, we have loved everything we have experienced. Many people often fail to recognize the importance of food; it is our livelihood - it brings us together, fuels our bodies, and nourishes our souls. Watching the people down here be so intimately involved in the procuring of their food, out there day-in and day-out herding their sheep or harvesting their potatoes, reminds me of how disconnected our modern society is to food. We often take for granted the overflowing cornucopia of foods available to us year round. Someone is growing and raising and transporting what we eat, often in surplus and out of season, daily. If we all take a step back from the fast-paced world of to-go meals and working lunches to simply observe the powerful energy between our bodies and the earth, then we may have a better chance of connecting to our food - which can lead to happier and healthier lives and a better environment. Through our new South American culinary encounters the tres chicas are one step closer to understanding and fully appreciating the cultures of the world. 

The cutest, smallest avocados we had ever seen! When you cut it in half the barely 
developed seed easily spliced in two. We were gifted these during a hike. 
The fleshy orange inside of a lúcuma resembles a sweet potato
Beautiful fresh lúcumas

Abundant and cheap

Always a surprise to find chicken feet in the vegetable soup

I came across this delicious drink at a random festival in
Bolivia - liquor, hot frothy milk, coconut, and nutmeg  
Ordering a fresh juice smoothie - papaya, banana, pineapple, carrot, anything you want - all for about $1USD

Fried eggs on everything! Even potato, peanut scramble with pasta
 (one of the more unusual meals but still delicious!!)

A typical market scene


  1. Ooh, please tell me you tried the Papas Rellenas in Cuzco! Great with Aji :-)

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