Commentary, Customs, Traditional Food

Deer and Venison in Cuzco

A Deer in the Forest

Found in virginal places outside the city of Cuzco, in mountains and canyons where vegetation reigns, deer are svelte herbivores. They are fairly short and yet round, which favors their moving around with facility.

Memories of deer dance in my head. One particular outing appears in my mind. We were roaming Cuzco’s backroads with the Cuzco Eats family, on the way to Huarocondo to try the famous lechón. We were driving slowly, taking pictures and enjoying the geography, laughter, and shared tales of different experiences. As we passed near Chinchero, a gray deer, with thin legs and antlers quickly darted in front of our car. It seemed startled.

David stopped the car and we all ran out to try to take pictures of it, but a pack of dogs from the area ran after the deer barking and yapping with threat in the air.

It was so fast that it was like a tale. The Pachamama, the mother earth, had placed us in the place and on seeing the deer we felt purity. It was something sacred since we seldom see the deer around us.

We enjoyed a natural geography, a small pond with wild ducks, trees in the distance, and fresh air. Everything pulled us from modernity, traffic and noise.

Hunters bring deer heads, deerskins, and various objects made from them to the fairs and festivals of our city. In the traditional markets of Cuzco’ heart you seldom find deer meat for sale. When people obtain venison they prefer to keep it within their families since it is succulent and delicious, as well as very difficult to find in our highlands.

Many dishes can be made from venison, such as venison roast, grilled venison, or venison soups and stews. It all depends on the creativity of the cook and the region.

Venison tastes soft and delicate on the palate. Many times it is accompanied with beans, rice, and salad. In Puerto Maldonado, in the lowlands, I had the opportunity of trying this delicious meat which created a party on my palate. The meat’s texture was tender and soft like cotton candy and melted in my mouth.

In Cuzco, hunting deer is banned since the animal is in danger of extinction. Nevertheless, many families hunt it just to have meat for themselves and not for sale. They do so because of the wonderful taste of this flesh

In some places, where deer hunting is a sport that is widely practiced, people try to obtain deer heads with antlers as trophies and to compete with each other. They exhibit them in the front rooms of their homes.




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