Monday, September 20, 2010

Comunidad Amaru

We spent one Saturday in Amaru, a comunidad about 30 min above Pisaq, or 2 hours total outside of Cusco. The women of the community of Amaru make beautiful weavings from sheep and alpaca wools, all by hand and natural from the spinning of the thread to the dying with native plant based dyes to the final piece of art. They also cook a mean cuy with the most beautiful potatoes I have ever seen. The cuy, or guinea pig for those of you with whom I must be blunt, is slow roasted in a wood burning oven and turns out tasting a lot like a tender, juicy roasted chicken. Though in restaurants it is served right off the spit and whole, in the community one cuy per person would be an unsustainable (and pointless) extravagance so I was saved from the dubious pleasure of thinking about the little critter as anything but food. The real joy of the meal, however, was when I picked up one of the gnarled, dark skinned, roasted potatoes and split it open: the interior of the potato was the most vibrant and rich shade of purple I have ever seen in nature. It was truly like I had cracked open a geode to reveal flawless amethyst. I literally squealed in happiness when I saw this potato, in response to which my friends could only tell me to save it until I had tasted. They were right, of course…the thousands of Andean potato varieties each have distinct looks and flavors that make the Idaho potato taste like powdered mashed potato mix in comparison. This purple one was dense, almost crumbly, and tasted like cream, flowers and black soil. The next one almost gave me a heart attack of pleasure at the mere sight: when I split it open, an amethyst purple and topaz yellow TIE DYE interior was revealed…
I couldn’t make this stuff up, people. Every potato I ate that day (which came out to like 6-they were all small ones, I swear) was a different color or colors. Some were all that intense topaz yellow; those tended to have fluffier flesh and a more straight forward flavor. Others were a delicate rose pink, glowing white or deep blue, but the stand out has to be the purple. I want jewelry made out of that potato. I will return to the Andes for that alone (turns out I’ll be going back regardless but that isn’t the point). In fact, I think the next time I’m in Amaru, I will ask if we can go up to one of their chacras, harvest a few potatoes and cook them right there. I want to participate fully in the process that brings something of such beauty to our plates, something so simple and perfect that it needs nothing else to be spectacular.

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