Now I don’t want you to think that this entire 3 months that I have been here, I have only learned about amazing Peruvian food. This post is not only about the food, but the lessons I’ve learned from the sharing of a meal.
From my orientation, food was a topic brought up. They told us to allow time for our body’s to adjust to the cuisine in Peru and to be careful where we ate. I lived religiously by these rules and avoided any food that did not seem would sit with me well. Then one day a beautiful thing happened. I had my first plate of ceviche!
Now for those of you who have never had ceviche from Peru, then well you are missing some part of heaven. It was nothing like any ceviche I had tried back home. It can be prepared with different types of fish and sauces! The most common I have had is with clams, crab, and fish. All of this is raw and cooked in lime juice. The picante and sauce is what makes the ceviche. There are variations of sauce but the main just is it is a lime flavored sauce with rocotto (red chile), onion, and a few other additions. They have two sides of sweet potato and concha (fried corn kernels). Sorry, I can get a little distracted when I am thinking ceviche. After this first plate of ceviche, and not getting sick, I felt invincible. I soon began enjoying various Peruvian plates, gaining some weight, and being completely happy. That was the case until one Friday night I woke up at 3 AM and emptied the entire contents of my stomach. I had gotten food poisoning. I recuperated a few days later.
This experience could have ruined the way I felt about the food here, but that’s where lesson one came in. Do not let one bad experience, ruin your entire concept of something. I now became more cautious, but still enjoy these foods.
The other side of the story is that from the very beginning, my co workers were very concerned about what I was eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Flor, the psychologist, soon then came to my house and made me 3 different Peruvian dishes. Then, my co-worker Cleide began bringing me breakfast. Dr. Katy, also brought me breakfast. The team even all got together to make a deal to take turns with bringing me home for lunch. I was soon overwhelmed, and felt very grateful and in gratitude for this. I had never really experienced something this intense. I am used to always being fed, I come from a Mexican family. We know how to eat and share. This was just on a different level. Then, I learned a beautiful lesson, food can bring you closer to people and help you understand who they are. These co-workers of mine were doing more than just sharing food, they were sharing their culture and their lives with me. I have had the blessing of being invited over to share meals and share stories. I have gotten the experience to learn how to prepare some of this food. There are 3 different areas in Peru, the coast, the jungle, and the mountains. Each one of these places have different cuisines. Peru is rich in their cuisine, and this cuisine for me has been like taking a Peruvian cultural class. I have learned what foods are made where and why.
Lastly, these people are taking a part of their food and sharing. A basic concept, but a hard one for many. There is no ownership or territorial feeling with their food. If its there, and someone needs to eat they will lessen their portion and share. It’s something that is natural to these new friends I have made.
So, aside from the mission I am working on in the Hospice, I learn lessons outside of the medical arena. I learn that food is essential to life. It is a way we can express our cultures and share cultures with one another. It is a way for happiness to come from different people coming together. It not only feeds our physical bodies, but our souls. Real food, unprocessed and made from scratch contains the nutrients to fuel a healthy body, and stories that can be passed from one person to another. I learned that people, no matter what situation they may be in or the life they lead, can surprise you. They can open themselves to acts of kindness that can truly make an impact on your life.
The next time someone invites you over for a meal, remember they are doing more than breaking bread, they are sharing apart of themselves with you. They are feeding you in more ways than one. Never shy from breaking bread with someone.
I’ll leave you with this:
“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart.”
– Cesar Chavez