Customs, Food Culture

The Much Loved Ovens of Cusco

In Cusco we traditionally eat foods that are baked at times of festivities, such as birthdays, anniversaries, or just to give ourselves the pleasure of satisfying some caprice or another. Dishes that are cooked in the oven are delicious, juicy, and filled with flavor.

In the city of Cusco you can find hand-attended ovens that cook with wood every hour of the day. In the mornings they prepare bread to take to market, but during the day they bake various meat dishes, ones of pork, lamb, fish, and cuy (guinea pig), among others. Some people send meat to be cooked in order to sell it or just to share and celebrate with other people.

In my 27 years I have gotten to know many different neighborhoods of the city. In each one I have always seen an oven open to the public. In all this time I saw many that used wood of different sizes to fire them up and many had distinctive decorations on them, including different figures from the Andean cosmology, serpents, pumas, condors, and chacanas.

hand-made and hand-attended ovens in Pisac, Cusco (Walter Coraza Morveli)
hand-made and hand-attended ovens in Pisac, Cusco (Walter Coraza Morveli)

In the majority of these ovens the price varies according to the amount of food you wish baked. If you send a whole chicken or cuy it will be 3 / S and it goes up from there.

You can also find rustic, hand-made and hand-attended ovens in some restaurants and pizzerias in our city. You rapidly sense the smell of the dishes baking when you go in.

Imagine that at any moment a great parade of meats will come out of one of these ovens. That scent and dream makes more than one diner suddenly hungry. Whenever the oven’s door opens the scent is freed.

These baked meats disappear as soon as the dish is served. We know the main ingredient is the love that goes into the preparation. Women also season their dishes with herbs from their gardens and this makes the interior of the oven sweatingly powerful as meats, dressings, and herbs all cook.

Rocoto Relleno with Tallarines al Horno and Chicken Baked A Special Dish to Eat on Sundays (Photo: Wayra)
Rocoto Relleno with Tallarines al Horno and Chicken Baked A Special Dish to Eat on Sundays (Photo: Wayra)

For me, homemade food is always the most memorable. The balanced hear from cooking in the oven leaves the dish juicy and cooked and all this recreates the notion of the warmth, love, and delicious food in the home. We Cusqueños are accustomed to eat our typical dishes that are cooked in the heat from wood fire, refracting bricks, and pieces of glass. These are as strong as the flames and so do not melt nor deteriorate.

An oven, as an artifact that generates and holds in heat is, from the point of view of gastronomy, a great invention for making flavorful food.

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2 Comments

  1. Public oven? Genius! I’d really love to visit one or two, or many. If not to send in any food, perhaps just to hang around and savor the smells of homemade food.

    Can you divulge a few locations of this ingenious tradition? 🙂

    1. Hi El. Thank you for your comment. Here is an address for an oven in the San Blas neighborhood of Cusco. Carmen Bajo 137.

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