I am still thinking about the food in Peru.  Today my obsession is quinoa.  I had heard of the grain before I traveled to Peru, however, I had not tasted it.  Quinoa is not a commonly used grain by most people in the US.

To the Incas, quinoa was considered sacred. In Quechua, it is referred to as chisiya mama or “mother grain.” Every planting season, the Inca emperor broke the soil with a golden spade and planted the first seed.

In the Altiplano region, quinoa is still a staple. For many it is their major source of protein, and its protein is of such high quality that, nutritionally speaking, it can and often does, take the place of meat in the diet. Outside the highlands of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru, however, the cultivation of quinoa  is virtually unknown.

In ancient times quinoa helped sustain the Inca armies as they marched throughout the empire towards new conquests. Today, it is made into flour for baked goods, breakfast cereals, beer, soups, desserts, and even livestock feed.  It has an extremely mild taste and a firm texture like that of wild rice. Traditionally, quinoa is prepared in the same manner as we prepare rice or can be used to thicken soups.  Some varieties are also popped like popcorn.1

My favorite dish in Peru with quinoa in it was a soup.  It was a chicken and vegetable broth with quinoa.  It was the first course at lunch.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, lunch the largest meal of the day.  Lunch in Peru is akin to dinner in the US.  Lunch always entails a soup as the first course, the main meal with a meat, starch (or two), and a vegetable.  Sometimes the vegetable portion is simply a ½ avocado sliced or a leaf or two of lettuce.  The meal always ends with desert.  Dinner on the other hand, is more like a light snack.  It usually consists of rolls with either cheese or butter and jam and hot tea.


All this talk of food make you hungry or interested in trying quinoa for yourself?  If so, try this tasty recipe: Lemony Quinoa and Kale with Pine Nuts.

Lost Crops of the Incas: Little-Known Plants of the Andes with Promise for Worldwide Cultivation (1989) Advisory Committee on Technology Innovation, Board on Science and Technology for International Development, National Research Council The National Academic Press . (page 149)

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Zack Hunter
    Sep 24, 2012 @ 12:07:11

    I love quinoa. Apparently soldiers (and others I bet) have lived off of it and nothing else but a little fat. Roasted red pepper soup with turmeric and quinoa is great!


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Chair of Social Science, Humanities,
& Foreign Languages

Liberal Arts & University Transfer
Craven Community College

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Email: bellaceroc@cravencc.edu
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