Customs, Food Culture

A Cuzco Favorite, Reheated Leftovers

Pots and Pants in the Kitchen (Photo: Wayra)

In the culinary language of Cuzco there is a word that makes people’s taste buds turn on. It is calentado, or re-heated. It is akin to the English idea of left-overs. It is food made for lunch one day, left in the pots, and then reheated for an evening meal or for breakfast the next morning.

The city’s custom is to make lots of food when they cook, whether for lunch–the heavy meal of the day, or for dinner. This custom comes down from the past. The point of so much food is not simply to provide abundant servings in a meal, although we cannot overstate the importance of that, it is also to cook once and get at least a couple of meals out of the food.

In the city, mothers are the ones generally responsible for cooking for the whole family. They know from lots of practice how much food they should prepare and they calculate carefully how full their pots should be for each lunch. Almost all the families of Cuzco enjoy a delicious meal of re-warmed left overs, either in the evening or the next morning for breakfast. This helps them start the day right and be filled with energy for the long day’s work.

Reheated Leftover Lechon (Photo: Wayra)
Reheated Leftover Lechon (Photo: Wayra)

Though the dishes taste wonderful for lunch, they become even better when re-heated. Everyone has their favorite dish. Mine is beans with rice. I love this plate when it first comes from the pot for lunch, but I like it even more the next morning. When reheated it becomes a wonder. Furthermore, its name changes. It now becomes the famous taku taku. This happens because at the time of heating through the two foods in a frying pan people mix the rice and beans together.

Some dishes do not need to be heated in a different pot than the one they were cooked in. This depend on the criteria of each cook and their creativity or desire or what people want to have for breakfast. For example, a stew of chicken and rice tend to be heated in thsir same pans and then served as they were the noon before.

While the high altitude and cold of indoor places that are not heated tends to help conserve food without refrigeration, such that the pots are left on the stove after lunch to hold the food. The food is generally not placed in containers and in a refrigerator.

Slicing Reheated Chicken (Photo: Wayra)
Slicing Reheated Chicken (Photo: Wayra)

But people have ideas of which foods are safe to keep and which are not. People also know which dishes hold their form and taste and which do not. For example, a locro of zapallo tends to separate. In the same way people do not save sopa de viernes (Friday’s soup), almuerzo de chuño (chuño lunch), or a quinoa soup. These dishes just do not make it as left overs that you reheat.

Still there is nothing like a piece of chicharrón or of pork roast (lechón) reheated and served with its potatoes, or made into a sandwich. We love food like this.

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