Food Culture

Food Sustains the Fiesta

Eating Soup while Dancing (Photo: Wayra)

Whenever Cuzco breaks into celebration, food appears in the streets as well. Always a part of the celebration, sometimes the food relates intimately and sometimes it is more ordinary street food. Nevertheless, the sights and scents of food flirt, support, and even replace the sounds and movement of the dances and drinking.

A clear example was the feast in the provincial capital of Paucartambo, two weeks before Peru celebrated its Independence Day. Paucartambo is a small but welcoming town that lies only two hours by road from Cuzco, after a spectacular drive over mountains and through valleys.

Entering the Plaza with an Oven, a Basket, and Cotton Candy (Photo: Wayra)
Entering the Plaza with an Oven, a Basket, and Cotton Candy (Photo: Wayra)

Its feast lasts for three or four days. Although this year, the feast began on a Monday, a work day, the town still filled with visitors from the city of Cuzco and other parts of Peru and the world. People took vacation from their work to be present for the parades, parties, processions, and dramas.

While the dancers and visitors were drinking, eating, dancing, and sleeping, others were trying to make some money by preparing and selling food, as well as other necessities. A few streets, such as one to the side of Paucartambo’s main church, became open air restaurants.

Everywhere there were people selling candies, cigarrettes, soft drinks–sometimes with rum–and beer. Some were from the town of Paucartambo while others, many others, came from Cuzco to make money.

One vendor of chocolates and other candies said she came from suburban Cuzco, San Sebastian, and regularly made a round of feasts in Cuzco as well as in the provinces in order to make a living.

Preparing Food in the Street (Photo: Wayra)
Preparing Food in the Street (Photo: Wayra)

Many people who have established businesses in Cuzco also decided to rent rooms in central location in order to place ephemeral restaurants–they were only open during the days of the feast, with the name of their places of business in the City. Paucartambo, as a result, bloomed with restaurants, pizzerías, and snacks (locations that sell sandwiches and drinks). Other places specialized in soups, especially in the mornings and evenings, when rich broths and other soups, especially its famous chicken soup, are very popular among the people of Cuzco.

In the afternoons the food streets sprung vendors offering rice with egg, anticuchos, salchipapas (hotdogs with french fries), and other quick foods.

A Portable Pizza Oven Heating (Photo: Wayra)
A Portable Pizza Oven Heating (Photo: Wayra)

The vendors made a strong effort to make good food and sell as much as they could. They were not going to let pass this opportunity to make money. As a result, they stayed open and cooking until long after midnight since people were still partying in the streets and needing a snack or a more substantial meal.

Their food was delicious. It also was priced economically, making it a bargain. You could buy a lunch for 4 S/ (about 1.50 US) or a snack (sandwich and such) for 5 S/, while a pizza ran about 20S/, 4$US.

While the feast of Pacuartambo did not require special foods such as chiriuchu, the food found in its streets was typical of street food and feast food throughout the department of Cuzco. A feast, as a result, is not only about dancing and drinking, it is also about sitting in a improvised place and eating food found in the feast.

Fresh French Fries on the Street (Photo: Wayra)
Fresh French Fries on the Street (Photo: Wayra)
Sandwich Stand on a Paucartambo Street (Photo: Wayra)
Sandwich Stand on a Paucartambo Street (Photo: Wayra)
Yellow Rocotos in Paucartambo (Photo: Wayra)
Yellow Rocotos in Paucartambo (Photo: Wayra)
Hot Chicken Soup in the Street (Photo Wayra)
Hot Chicken Soup in the Street (Photo Wayra)
Anticuchos Grilling in Paucartambo (Photo: Wayra)
Anticuchos Grilling in Paucartambo (Photo: Wayra)
Anticuchos Grilling in Paucartambo (Photo: Wayra)
Anticuchos Grilling in Paucartambo (Photo: Wayra)
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