Peru on world map

Peru – A Thanksgiving to Remember

November 22, 2007 - Peru

by Steve Henrichon

Have you ever celebrated Thanksgiving in a foreign country? It is kind of anticlimactic since very few people outside of the US have ever heard of the holiday. Rene and I were set on making this Thanksgiving one to remember. Did we make a huge Turkey day feast complete with turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy? Nope. That would be too predictable. Instead, we arranged for two “cuy,” a Peruvian delicacy. I’ll give you a hint as to what a cuy is. It is a small rodent, larger than a hamster, a popular domestic pet in the states, and it rhymes with “Puinea Gig.”

Anyways, our friend Edilberto actually has a network of ten women throughout San Clemente who raise guinea pigs to be sold for food. Edilberto arranged for us to buy two Cuy and I explained to him that I want to see the entire process. I repeat…the ENTIRE process I will indeed remember this experience forever. Rene decided it was in his best interest to not accompany me on the cuy selection process. Alright, here’s my disclaimer: If this makes you uncomfortable already, then skip to the next passage. I don’t want any hate mail. I love animals and I never want to see an animal unjustly harmed but I thrive on different cultural experiences and I am going to share with you how Peruvians prepare cuy.

Edilberto and I took a mototaxi to a women’s house on the other side of town. She picked two furry brown Cuy from an outdoor pen. I believe the cuy knew their fate. It was not long before the woman had snapped both of their necks. She then dipped the cuy into hot water which makes it easier for her to rip off all the fur. She used a sharp knife to scrape off the small hairs and then held the hairless body over a flame to singe off all the stragglers. She then removed the guts and split the jaws open. I left with a sack of two entire cuy. When you eat a cuy, you are served the entire body and you have to dissect it. I paid the woman 30 sol ($10). I then went to the market to purchase the spices recommended to me for preparing “cuy a la parrilla.” Grilled Guinea Pig. I then brought the cuy and the spices back to our hotel and I asked Fanny (the owner) to prepare one grilled cuy and one fried cuy.

Now, I have been there…done that. I have no desire to eat another guinea pig. I ate my entire cuy but Rene kind of picked at it for a while and didn’t eat much of his. Its not too surprising that Guinea pig tastes a helluva lot like chicken but the taste is just different enough to remind you that you are certainly not eating chicken.

I had sent a couple thanksgiving pics to some family and friends and word seemed to have gotten around. When I returned to the states, everyone seemed to have more questions about the guinea pig than they did about the success of the clinic and my life-changing experience. But if that is what sells, then I will take the liberty of sharing with you my perverse thrill of eating all of the little critters that cross my path in my travels around the globe. The guinea pig is joined by likes of crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, caterpillars, scorpions, frogs, ants, sparrow fetuses, alpaca, raw speckled bird eggs, raw ostrich, crocodile, cow hearts, tendons, tongue, glands, the list goes on…but the most fowl tasting thing I have eaten has to be silk worms from Beijing. Now that’s a Thanksgiving dinner!!

Return to Top