Unlike American children, the youth of Peru aren’t raised with guinea pigs as pets. So, the thought of roasting one for dinner doesn’t feel at all horrifying. Guinea pig, or cuy (pronounced “kwee”) is a delicacy that has been enjoyed in Peru for the last 5,000 years. The two most popular versions are cuy chactado – whole guinea pig flattened and deep-fried, and cuy al horno – also whole but roasted over an open pit. Look for a local cuyería (a restaurant specializing in the dish) and have a taste of authentic Peruvian cuisine. Oh, forget the utensils. Cuy is picked apart and eaten by hand.
Even before the Incans arrived, Peruvian’s were raising a glass of chicha morada, an intensely sweet and tart drink made from corn. Purple Peruvian corn called culli or ckolli corn is dried, boiled in water with pineapple rinds, quince, cinnamon, and clove then strained, sweetened and served over ice. Not only is it loaded with antioxidants, it is also known to prevent the development of some cancers, lower blood pressure, promote circulation, reduce inflammation, and increase collagen production. Chicha morada is one of the most popular beverages in the country and tastes good too!
The ancient Inca civilization is a vibrant thread running through every part of Peruvian culture. The more you learn about the Incans, the more you will understand and appreciate the people of Peru. Aside from visiting astonishing ancient sites like Machu Picchu and Sacsayhuaman, a visit to the Cusco Planetarium is well worth your time. The museum uses Incan astronomy to peel back the layers of this highly civilized, ancient culture and connect the Incan cosmovision to the Cusco you see before you today.