Food Culture

Food, Drink, and Joy When a Roof is Finished in Cuzco

Finishing a Roof

The city of Cuzco keeps growing and, as a result, its hillsides are filling up with houses. When a house is built, our customs and traditions require the family members and friends of the owners get together to help the workmen perform the roofing. They do this as a kind of ayni, mutual assistance. When they put the last touches on the roof they prepare special dishes and drinks to celebrate the roofing, or techado as we call it.

The home’s owners hire various roofers for this day, most of whom are young men. They begin working very early.

On that day, the workers can expect a large amount of chicha as well as lots of coca leaves so that the workers are filled with energy throughout the whole day. At lunch time a substantial lunch is served. The food could be a chairo, a quinoa soup, or a soup of morón (wheat). In these single dishes are concentrated all the main ingredients of Andean nutrition. People want the workers to be well fed so they can finish the day and the job with lots of joy.

Rocoto Relleno to Celebrate
Rocoto Relleno to Celebrate

The workers are treated with much warmth and love. They are given lots of good attention. As a result, when they finish the roof, as night falls, they are served exquisite dishes, such as roasted duck, broad bean kapchi with a stuffed rocoto, baked fettuccine, guinea pig with large huayro potatoes and a hot sauce (ají) made with roasted peanuts, or fried fish with hominy (mote), or our favorite lechón (roast pork) with tamales. Any of these dishes is served to celebrate the end of the roofing.

The house where every one has been working is converted into a party filled with joy. There is much laughter accompanied with our particular music of nostalgia and feeling, huaynos, cumbias, and so on.

When work is finished, a cross of wood and a cross of castilian garlic on its sides is attached to the roof along with ceramic bulls. These things are placed so that the people who live in the house will always have happiness, love, and well being within their home. The moment the cross is well connected to the house a bottle of champagne is broken on the house to bring to an end the work and guarantee a good roof.

Bulls and Cross on a Cuzco Rooftop
Bulls and Cross on a Cuzco Rooftop

Then everyone comes together, the workers and the owner’s family, to celebrate. They enjoy their delicious food and, when they finish eating, the owner’s serve them boxes of beer, strawberry chicha and / or more chicha. Then among lots of laughter they begin to dance. Dawn will find them still drinking and dancing for the joy of having finished the house.

Lechon for a Roofing
Lechon for a Roofing

Some years ago when we finished building my home, on the day of the roofing web partied. My neighbors were the workers. They were joyful people and knew well the craft of placing a roof. Our whole family got together to work with them, my uncles and aunts and my cousins. Everyone helped in the lifting of clay tiles, preparing the mud that would cement them, and everything else that was needed.

My mother and my aunts took charge of all the preparations. With jokes and laughter we finished the roof. Then with the great joy we felt of having our own home now, we all started drinking beer, chicha, and the wonderful preparation of strawberries and chicha we call frutillada.

Frutillada
Frutillada

In this event I tasted for the first time the delicious and refreshing beverage we call chicha de jora, or corn chicha. My cousins and I sat down, though we were still kids, and drank a whole pitcher of chicha. We felt drunk. My whole family continued drinking until the next day, just as it should be, and happiness abounded.

Chicha de Jora for a Roofing
Chicha de Jora for a Roofing
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