The Peruvians love their food. The Americans are going to be thrown off by coming to the coastal deserts. Lunch is the big meal for the day. Breakfast consists of toasted rolls and butter or jam. We are lucky enough to have fresh rolls brought in from town each day, which is a special treat. The Peruvians also love to slice avocado with a little salt onto the bread. Sometimes they add a little mayonnaise to the dish for a creamier taste. The coffee is pressed or instant coffee is served.
Our accommodations are simple. The electric is only available from 6 or 7 to 9 p.m., so there is no opportunity for any refrigeration. The juices come in box form and sit out on the counter all day. The milk or yogurt is in a plastic bottle and sits out as well. I tasted the yogurt as it comes in a variety of flavors, vanilla and berry. The Peruvians will pour it over the cereal and add sugar and bananas to the topping. The lack of refrigeration definitely makes food preparation extremely challenging — or simple, whatever your perspective may be.
The ambience of the dining room is excellent, with a view of the ocean and candlelight after sundown. There are quite a few of us who attempt to squeeze in around the table that seats about 14. The Spanish and American conversations blend it is quite entertaining. Those of us who don’t make it around the table enjoy eating our meals out on the terrace, where we are watching the guano workers preparing their living quarters for the next eight weeks.
Starches are the main staple. Potatoes and rice are commonly served along with meat. There is a variety of fresh fruits; apples, oranges, tangerines, pears, cactus fruit and granadilla (a member of the passion fruit family). All of these are very fresh and very good. Many of the pantry items are dry goods. They are prepared with the boxed water that is brought in each week.
Wednesday’s lunch was amazing. It was a favorite of many of the Peruvians, thick spaghetti with a puree of spinach, garlic, onion, basil and oil. This was served with a skirt steak with a sauce Aji and Rocotta are spices commonly used. The paste comes in envelope packets and it is really good. Not as spicy as jalapenos, but very flavorful. I am definitely packing this to come home.
Thursday’s lunch was another culinary treat for us. There is a Chinese influence on some of the foods. We had a rice dish that reminded me of jambalaya crossed with fried rice. There was egg and rice and slices of ginger that added spice and flavor to the dish. It was amazing; several helpings were enjoyed to satisfy the day.
The beverage for the meal is usually a tea concoction. Barley was used yesterday to blend a very flavorful glass of tea. Earlier in the week we had some tea that was prepared with more citrus fruits. The pineapple skins were cooked in water on the stove to blend with orange juice…. This was very good as well.
The evening meal is usually something light and easy to prepare. Usually it is leftovers from the lunch warmed up or JIF peanut butter and crackers.
Today (Friday) as I am sitting in the dining area, Monica the cook is in the kitchen preparing today’s lunch. The smells of garlic and onion in the skillet are going to be the basis for a wonderful meal. She is preparing a stuffed pepper type meal with ground meat and egg. It will probably be delicious like everything else. (Update: It was. See me in the picture at top? That’s the stuffed pepper dish. You can see how much I like it.)
Other Thoughts from the Curator
The field experiences here are amazing. The opportunities to talk with the Peruvians and learn from them is an opportunity of a lifetime. Even talking to our American counterparts to get their perspectives and experiences is great. Each one of us started in this profession for the opportunity to work with and protect species and their ecosystems. As we go out and do our daily census, we get to see groups of amazing animals in their natural state. The South American Sea Lion (lobo fino) are generally found on the rocks; while the Cape Fur Seals or Sea Lions (lobo chusco) are found lying on the beaches. When you are looking at a thousand individuals on a shoreline, it is very difficult for someone without experience to count them. The Humboldt penguins are easier to count, and more enjoyable.