Early this year my sister Gladys called me to tell me Qantas had a sale on tickets to South America. Even when she was not planning to, she found the offer pretty good and was thinking to go and visit the family. I had been thinking it was about time for me to go too (last time I was there was in 2010) but I had looked for tickets around Christmas time and they were absurdly expensive. Gladys was planning to travel mid or late July because our sister Gloria (the one who lives in Lima) finished her degree in August. I told her that if I had enough annual leave I’d join her but during my uni break, starting from July 1st. A couple of days later we bought our tickets and started planning the trip (Gladys didn’t even bother getting her annual leave approved before buying them!).
Here’s a debrief of what happened during my trip. Pardon the chaotic randomness that seems to dominate this post.
- This trip didn’t have a “theme” when it was conceived but it clearly became all about the family. Dad had been battling cancer for almost 5 years, but he had been in great shape most of the time. But cancer treatment is very debilitating, and his body started giving up a few months ago. We had no idea of how bad his situation was until a few weeks before the trip. And we were there just in time to spend time with him, help mum take care of him, and be with her after he died. Being Buddhists, both Gladys and I were in a sense more prepared to deal with this process. And vice versa, this experience has strengthen our non-intellectual understanding of impermanence. We were also able to apply some methods to help in dad’s journey to his next life.
- Speaking about family, I discovered that my auntie Rosa is a great cook. My aunties (mum’s sisters) have always lived next door. When I was a kid, my granny used to cook for us, but she passed away when I was 9. Then auntie Sumi took over the kitchen duties (she’s also a great cook) until some years ago, when she fell down and broke her hip. Auntie Rosa is now the official cook and I must say there’s no one like granny, but she’s pretty good.
- Friends are awesome. I’m sort of antisocial, but still have a handful of friends that have been with me in the good and bad times. Most of them have been brave enough to go to my gigs when I used to play in metal bands. This time I had the joy of sharing meals with them and have their support when dad died.
- My in-laws rock, too. Sure, most of the times our personalities create a bit of friction here and there but they have been very helpful and supportive with me and my family, and I’m very grateful for that.
- My general eating plan was to eat as much seafood as possible, in the form of cebiche, tiradito, pulpo al olivo, sushi, and sashimi. I even had thought about eating cebiche every day in different restaurants, but that didn’t happen. Still, most of the seafood I had was exquisite, but I was a bit disappointed with sushi and sashimi this time.
- I didn’t eat Paleo the whole time but I managed to minimise gluten, legumes, and dairy. I did eat corn, potatoes, some rice and some dairy (only cream and butter), and didn’t feel sick at all. I did feel the excess of vegetable oil in my joints, and had a bad reaction to gluten (woke up completely stuffed up the next day).
- Some people have asked me how difficult was it to eat Paleo in Lima. I’d say it’s not that difficult if you know what to order, but perhaps the hardest bit is the lack of gluten awareness over there. I feel it for people with celiac disease. Menus don’t have indications for gluten-free items, and most waiters don’t have any idea of what gluten is.
- I ate a lot more carbs than I regularly do, mostly in the form of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava. I didn’t eat many vegetables so I find myself craving big salads quite often.
- Nowadays I don’t eat much fruit, but over there it was impossible to resist. Everything, even a humble banana, has heaps more flavour than here. The most dramatic case, in my opinion, is avocados. They are so good I think I had them every single day during the trip.
- Fruit and some cocktails satisfied my sweet tooth. I used to have a huge sweet tooth (and a belly to go with it), but now I very rarely crave sweets (usually under the influence of alcohol, extreme stress, or both). On those few ocassions I find regular desserts way too sweet (not to talk about Peruvian sweets, which are sweeter than straight table sugar). I did eat half of a chapana, which was fantastic.
- Unlike my previous trip to Lima, I didn’t get a short-term gym membership. In fact, didn’t go to the gym at all. I tried to do a short bodyweight workout most days (sometimes as short as 10 push ups and 10 squats), I didn’t walk as much as I had planned to (actually, I barely walked at all), I was under a lot of stress and slept very little, and still I only gained 1 kilo, which vanished 5 days after setting foot back in Sydney. My strength and fitness came back in less than that. In 2010 I came back to Sydney with 2.5 extra kilos that stayed with me for a year. What’s changed? The fuel.
- I was surprised at how much more expensive it is to eat out these days. It’s true that quality has gone up too, but still… eating in Lima is not BBB (bueno, bonito y barato = good, nice and cheap) as it used to be.
- Pisco drinks are pretty popular these days, especially different flavours of sours and chilcanos.
- Paiche, a delicious fish from the jungle rivers, seems to be now in every respectable menu in Lima. That’s excellent news.
- It’s true that there’s less obesity in Perú than in Australia, but if you forget about the obese population, Peruvians are in much worse shape than Australians. Of course, this is purely observational, but I find the average Peruvian citizen to be chubbier than their Aussie counterpart. Gladys observed that they seem to drink much more soft drinks than people here, and I saw that even in native communities in the highlands. They also eat a lot more starches and walk a lot less. And they’re still stuck in the belief that if you’re slim you’re sick.
- Travelling can be challenging for Paleo people. Airplane food has never been classified as fine dining, but it’s especially tricky when you rule out grains, (most) dairy, legumes, vegetable oils, and processed foods in general. My friend Suz has experimented with different dietary choices in airplanes and apparently there’s a greater chance of getting real food (read: unprocessed) when ordering the standard option. Still, it’s important to be prepared, i.e. to carry some portable food in case of emergency. I packed different flavours of activated almonds, two flavours of Flats, coconut flakes and Vital Greens, and was good to go.
Chicken adobo, sweet potato & salad, cooked by auntie Rosa
Cebiche de pescado (Punto Azul)
Cebiche norteño (El Mercado)
Tiradito dos cremas (Tanta)
Granadilla, plátano manzano, plátano de la isla
That’s a dodgy chapana we made at home a while ago
Orange juice, algarrobina, pisco punch, mamey chilcano (Saqra)
Paiche amazone (Central)
Paiche kushiyaki (Maido)
Crocante de paiche con ají amarillo (Lima 27)