Mistura 2013: How I Got to Know Peru

It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was flying home from one of the most exhilarating food journeys of my life. I was at Mistura, the largest culinary festival in Latin America held in the culturally rich and historically fascinating country that is Peru.

This year the festival took place beneath a flurry of white tents in Costa Verde, a stretch of land bordering the Pacific Ocean and the dusty side of a hill that leads to the Magdalena district of Lima. Weaving through the countless stands, markets, and fascinating talks hosted by some of the world’s most celebrated chefs, I was (almost) able to grasp the dizzying diversity of Peru’s cuisine. Of the country’s 700 native dishes, I dove into luscious ceviches and light-as-air tamales from the capital of Lima, but also studied more obscure plates from other regions of the country, like seco de cabrito or stewed goat served with rice and beans and champús, a warming dessert made with soursoup and pineapple.

There was the vibrant and welcoming Gran Mercado, or grand market, with its endless varieties of potatoes (over three thousand in Peru), quinoa grains of every shade and size, olives as plump and briny as Greek kalamatas, Amazonian fruit whose twisty names tripped up my tongue, medicinal herbs, and more keepsakes to tuck away in my trunk of sensory treasures.

There were over 15 different mundos or worlds, each begging to be explored. I tasted a surprisingly light, yet deceptively filling lechón sandwich from the Mundo de los Sánguches, my first grilled anticuchos threaded through a stick and bursting with juices from the Mundo de los Anticuchos, fish egg ceviche and beers from el Mundo del Ceviche, and so much more.

I was humbled by the massive knowledge that the farmers, vendors, and cooks I met with were willing to share. Each one had a deep understanding of their product and how it fit into the country’s cultural heritage. This filled me with awe.

Yesterday, Mistura came to an end. But my memories of it willI stay with me forever.

Ceviches and Cristal (and Camu Camu Cremolata)

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