Events, Food Culture

Roast Lechon and the New Year

Traditional Dish for New Year - Lechon with Tamales (Walter Coraza Morveli)

People in Cuzco pay close attention to New Year’s Eve. It is a heightened, freighted time.

What you do that night, as it goes on until the pop of the year’s change with fireworks, music, dance, and food, is how you will spend the rest of the year, they say.  This night is a cabala, an augury, that creates luck and reality for the upcoming expanse of time.

Among the many things people do this night, such as wearing yellow to get money or red to attract love, one of the important things is that you eat well and that it be with your loved ones, family and friends, so that they will be with you throughout the upcoming year and so that you will suffer no lack, but only abundance of food.

To this end, the most important food on the New Year’s is lechón, roast young pig.  On the 31st, from early in the morning, lines of pig, marinated and prepared, appear in every one of the city’s ovens as family after family brings its pig to be baked in communal heat.

Already they have prepared for this for days, since they had to buy the pork and then season it.  The future roast should rest in the air with condiments on it for a day so that it develops a good crust and so that the flavors enter in it.

Beside the producers of pork, tamale makers have been working over time to have enough tamales to accompany the roast pork, since the dish is generally served with two tamales made from Cuzco’s famous white corn, one sweet and the other savory.

People will take their plates of lechón and eat it with their fingers, tearing off pieces of juicy roast to lift to their mouths and enjoy. Eating with your hands is also important on this day.

Why the pork?  I do not know, but we can notice that the meat does not come from any pig, but it from a young pig, something like the new year, also young.  The richness of the flesh comes under a savory and crunchy skin that may also have some meaning for moving into the new year and hoping for good fortune.

The tamales are wrapped. Like the pork they have an outer skin of corn husks, inside of which we find a savory or sweet filling, hopefully like the new year which should come bearing inside itself, as if a womb, good things and good fortune.

The tamales for a kind of mandala of the world with a union of savory and sweet, at the same time that is combined with the pork. Together, the three items bring a completeness. People hope that this, eaten in joy and laughter with family and friends, along with alcoholic beverages will make for a good upcoming year in which the omens embedded in the meal and all around it will be fulfilled.

Happy New Year.

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