It is a soccer night and Cuzco wears red. Fans arrive at the stadium for the game, as well as to enjoy the food, a veritable gastronomic feast. Football (as soccer is called in Cuzco) and Cuzqueño food go hand in hand. While the players fight it out on the field, the hosts of the gastronomic festival are the merchants who own and run the stadium stands. They play their own game where they compete to share their food with the hosts of fans who chose their preference.
Of course the king of sports keeps attention on the field as peoples hearts rise and fall with the fortunes of Cuzco’s team, Cienciano. Teams from other parts of Peru call it the “Inca Team”. Cienciano has won various cups, among them the South American Cup in 2003. That was one of its greatest triumphs in its long trajectory of soccer and it, as well as other successes, fill Cuzco’s fans with joy.
Every time there is a home game, the fans gather to the stadium to give heart to the Inca Team, but they also enjoy the gastronomic feast that is also an important part of the event. There, Cuzco’s gastronomy appears fully prepared to play its own challenge.
In the stadium one finds a complete fiesta both inside and outside. The gastronomic festival is ample and diverse. All the best of typical dishes from popular gastronomy, as well as fast food, join to compete for clients. Among this variety of food we find Turkish rice with egg and stir-fry, anticuchos of heart, beef, or choncholínes (grilled intestines), noodles with baked chicken, etc. We find dishes from three soles (a bit more than a dollar) each and up.
At first people like to eat the different piqueos, as they are called, small and light dishes with which to wait for the beginning of the game. These include chicharrón made from soy, tocto (cracklings), chips of sweet potatoes, fried sweet potatoes, canchitas (parched corn) with cheese, salted and toasted broad beans, among others, are sold in the stands during the game. They are also what is most consumed during the game.
But people eat more. In fact, it is normal in the stands to enjoy the different dishes, since there is a group of vendors who are organized to sell them in the stands. They take the food to the spectators so that they can stay in their seats and enjoy the give and take of the game. They take charge and bring the best dishes, fast food, snacks as well as deserts. Among these last they offer apple pie, corn pie, as well as chicha morada (purple corn drink) and chicha de quinoa to drink.
At the end of the first half begins the intense, fifteen minute gastronomic dash. The sellers, called “caceras”, who are also the cooks, work hard and fast to serve the demanding public all within the fifteen minute time limit so that people will not miss even a minute of the game.
In terms of drinks, it depends on the time of the game. If it is during the day then one finds white chicha, purple chicha, frutillada, and cool herb teas. If it is at night one finds the healthy emolientes, ponche de habas, coffees, and all kinds of hot drinks to drive away the cold.
Outside the stadium, there is also a feast. Not only does one find much food on sale, but also items of clothing with the team’s logo, as well as all kinds of other things that interest the fans.
On going to the stadium one thrills to the game, but also enjoys the other celebration that accompanies it. The sports club, as the host, offers musical interludes or various kinds of shows related to the king of sports. In this way, no matter who wins it is a delight to go to the game.
This is even more the case now that there will be more games in Cuzco. Every week a game will be played since a new “blue” team, the Real Garcilaso of Cuzco, just this last year attained entrance into the professional league of Peruvian football. As a result, Cuzco now has two teams.
Though they did not both have the same status, nonetheless for some fifty years these two would meet in the “Clasico” game of Cuzco soccer. This year the competition will be even more intense. Fans will throng to the game to see which one of Cuzco’s teams will win, all the while drinking and eating the foods that make Cuzco proud.