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July 27, 2011 10:44:49 | in General

To Live and Diet in Lima

By Agnes Rivera

Before departing Oregon, U.S., I contemplated becoming a vegan with hopes of carrying such a lifestyle with me throughout my six-month stay in Lima. Truth is, like an additional carry-on bag, restricting your diet, especially so drastically, can be burdensome when placing oneself in a completely new culture. It was not veganism in particular that I was drawn to; it was establishing something in the U.S. that I could hold onto in the new land.

I had reasons to be frightened. My thoughts remained terrorized by memories of a trip to Cusco five years ago in which I had little inhibition concerning my gastronomical tendencies. In my recollection, mesmerizing images of Macchu Picchu are flanked by a dizzying spell of what can modestly be termed as the turista affliction. I did not know whether to blame the alpaca meat, the various animal hearts speared onto a kebob, or perhaps the guinea pigs; I was certain however that I did not intend for such a reoccurrence during this second trip.

Nearly three weeks since my arrival in Lima, I’m living anything but a vegan lifestyle. Breakfast consists of bread with butter or cream cheese. Lunch, as well as dinner, is typically a meat-based soup accessorized with a few vegetables, followed by a plating of rice and yes, more meat. This is popularly alternated with a dish of chicken and fries, what I’ve learned to be Peru’s answer to the classic Americana staple of hamburger and fries.

In no way have my taste buds been disappointed, nor my stomach upset, yet it has come as a surprise that I have eaten more meat here than I would had I been in the U.S., a country I always assumed to be exceedingly meat-centric. Not to say having certain dietary restrictions is impossible here in Lima, but right now, I find it to be challenging for a foreigner living in a Peruvian family’s home.

Although I steer away from fast food when in the U.S., I admit I find a sense of ease and security when I enter such businesses as McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts that are available here in Lima. Maybe it’s because I know that these businesses will be accustomed to dealing with foreigners that stumble through giving their orders in Spanish, such as myself. Or perhaps it’s encountering a sensation of familiarity; such as a scent, be it coffee beans or greasy French fries. No matter the reason, food has the ability to lend comfort. And while strengthening my willpower to say no to another helping of alfajores may not be a bad thing, allowing oneself to fall into the culture of a country, including the food, will do more good than bad.

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