Food & DrinksPeruvian Food

Grills and Solidarity on a Cuzco Weekend

Savory and juicy steaks served with french fries and chicha or Coca-Cola result in solidarity and re-encountering each other for many people.

It is said that people used to help each other without asking for anything in exchange.  Helping other people was just part of who one was.  And when you needed help your efforts were reciprocally returned to you by other people.  In Quechua this was called Ayni and it is still practiced, even today, by all the people of Cuzco.

Called parrilladas, because of the grill on which the meat is cooked, or pollada, when they involve grilled chicken, these events which have places where people can dance were created some time ago.  We don’t know when.  But we could say that they seem to have always been here in one form or another, though they now have a more modern name.  Though they have a long history, today they are often used to raise money for someone who is sick where a group comes together, sets a goal of funds to raise, and opens tents and a grill on street sides, parks, and yards.  In this way all of a person’s friends and family can come together to help them.

Usually organized for the weekend, it is not rare to see them in any neighborhood of Cuzco along with their music and portable tables.

The family or group which puts together the event starts the day before to prepare the meet, beef steaks, to marinate it with condiments such as soy sauce, cumin, garlic, aji panca (a dark red hot pepper) and maybe even a little Coca-Cola and chicha to give the meet a different flavor.  On the day of the event, you can watch people peeling and boiling potatoes to accompany the meat.   They get everything else ready, such as setting up the tables and bringing sodas or beer to sell.

Entrance Ticket for a Pollada
Entrance Ticket for a Pollada

Invitations should have gone out in advance.  Once the day arrives, and all is ready, people just wait for the guests to arrive little by little for lunch.

In the traditional parrilladas both the food and the music stand out.  These are what make people feel the event is a success.   When arriving at the open air tables, one can see the women busily cooking the steaks on a large metal grill which is put over a wood flame.  In this it is like the famous fogones, or wood-stove or oven restaurants of the various neighborhoods of Cuzco.  You can appreciate how the meat is being cooked and seasoned with a sauce made from oil, oregano, salt, and a bit of chicha which makes the steaks juicy and flavorful.  They are served with tables the the always present uchukuta (hot sauce) for those who request it.   People usually consume their grilled meat and potatoes with a soda or a delightful beer.

The ideal is to come to the event with your family so that you can spend time together and improve your relationship with other people.

Sunday Grill in a Cuzco Neighborhood
Sunday Grill in a Cuzco Neighborhood

After having enjoyed the wonderful food it is customary to watch youtr friends and family enjoying the music and accompanying them with a few beers.   The danceable parrilladas do not only hew to the custom of enjoying food, but also enjoy being with friends whom you may not see daily and in this way be able to show solidarity and add your grain of help to meeting the need for which the event was planned.

Today, when everything is so expensive, people do not only do grilled beef but they also cook chicken or trout on the grills.  These are variously called, polladas (for chicken) and truchadas for trout).  They are also part of the tradition since what does not change is the social gathering and the desire for solidarity and help.

Who ever said that while eating you and having fun you could not also help other people.

Meat and Potatoes Grilling
Meat and Potatoes Grilling

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