Customs, Food Culture

Eating Huatia and June’s Celebrations in Cuzco

An Oven made of Clods for Huatia (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)

Cuzco is still celebrating today. Just like every other year, today we celebrated Inti Raymi and for days before, the Plaza de Armas, the Main Square, was filled with dances from all the schools, universities, and institutes. All of these celebrations began in June which is when we are supposed to enter a period of intense warmth during the day.

Firing up the Oven (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)
Firing up the Oven (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)

During almost every day of June fiestas are carried out in Cuzco, from the morning till night. Besides all the dances performed, the city’s families take advantage of sunny days to bake huatia.

To make huatia, people look for a piece of ground hit by the sunlight. Some people do it in their patios and others take to the hillsides. Today the area near Saqsayhuaman has been particularly popular. You look for a flat area and then seek clods of earth.

Placing Dirt on the Tamped Down Oven (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)
Placing Dirt on the Tamped Down Oven (Photo: Arnold Fernandez Coraza)

You make an oven from the clods. First you decide where you are going to locate the oven’s door and then you began making a circle of clods, except where the door is to be formed. There you make a separate structure. Once you have built the basic walls, you set the clods so the curve inward to make a dome. Bigger clods go on the bottom and smaller ones on top. Once you have closed your dome and the arch of the doorway, you fill in the holes with very small clods and dirt. Now your oven is ready.

You now gather wood and sticks to make a fire. You let the over heat for some 15 to twenty minutes, depending on its size. In the meantime you get everything ready that you are going to cook in the oven: potatoes, broad beans, sweet potatoes, and ocas. Once the time has passed and the oven is hot you toss in the ingredients and then collapse the oven on top of them.

Pulling Hot Potatoes from the Burning Dirt (Photo: David Knowlton)
Pulling Hot Potatoes from the Burning Dirt (Photo: David Knowlton)

You bury the food in the hot dirt and cover it thoroughly so no smoke escapes. You let your food cook, depending on the amount, some twenty to forty minutes. Once the time has passed, you carefully pull back the dirt with a pick and one by one pull out the hot and cooked potatoes and other ingredients.

You can now sit with your family and friends and enjoy these hot baked potatoes and other foods, along with a fresh hot sauce, or perhaps a baked chicken or some baked fettuccine and a stuffed rocoto. These all make a perfect combination with your huatia.

Huatia Baked Potatoes Ready to Eat (Photo: David Knowlton)
Huatia Baked Potatoes Ready to Eat (Photo: David Knowlton)

Today, the 24th of June is the central day of feasting in Cuzco, the Day of Cuzco. It is a day filled with expectations and hopes. From early in the morning children climb up to the esplanade of Sacsayhuaman where the performance will take place. The arrange themselves in front of it and there begin to make their ovens so that when people arrive they can sell them the ovens and make some money. People bring their own ingredients to enjoy fresh baked potatoes and more during a day of joy and happiness which only comes once a year.

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