When Should You Eat?

Peruvian Classic Lomo Saltado

What time do you eat your main meal of the day? Surprisingly, this can vary a lot, even within the same country or city.

In Peru, the people on the coast such as those in Lima, tend to eat their largest meal in the middle of the afternoon, around three pm or so, not unlike they do in Mexico City or in Seville.

However in the highlands, such as in Cuzco, people will eat much earlier. Even if restaurants are more attuned to something in between the mountain norm and that of the coast, many people expect their main meal around noon.

This can create a conflict, or simply create a divide which splits people into two camps, those who eat early and those who eat late. Both take place in Cuzco.

A Delicious Mixt Ceviche
A Delicious Mixt Ceviche

The city has seen an influx of people from Lima with recent economic development, especially of tourism and other business. They prefer to keep their own traditions and norms, even if the style and way of Cuzco has a certain provincial flavor to them.

At the same time, many people from Cuzco have family who now live in the City of Kings on the coasts and there is a constant back and forth between the Inca’s capital and Lima.

It is the custom of Limeños to have a large meal much later in the day than for the Cuzqueños, who also tend to end the day much earlier than the coastal people. It is not uncommon for people in the highlands, like Cuzco, to sleep shortly after dusk and after they have had their lonche, their hot drink and maybe a sandwich, or even just a soup or a bit of a regular main dish.

Cuzco's Fried Trout
Cuzco’s Fried Trout

This follows too closely on the main meal for the coastal people who now reside in the Imperial City. They expect to stay up later and to have their night-time hot drink much later than their neighbors.

Since Lima is higher status than Cuzco, their is a preference fro the coastal way and a tendency to stigmatize people who follow the traditional highland social norms. As a result, people array themselves all along the range between the two types. In this positioning you can see social difference and hierarchy.

Its amazing how something as simple as when you eat you main meal can play such a role in distinguishing people.

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