By Maureen Santucci
Lima is often referred to as the Gastronomic Capital of Latin America and going to the annual food festival Mistura is a great way to find out why. I recently went for the first time, getting in the back door so to speak as I was helping my friends who have a small but renowned pisco (Peruvian brandy) bar in Cusco, El Pisquerito.
This was the festival’s fourth year and each year sees it growing larger, both in terms of the number of foods and establishments represented as well as the numbers of people attending. The festival runs for eleven days, each day packed with Peruvians and foreigners alike eating, drinking and celebrating the country’s vast culinary heritage.
The event was huge, with literally hundreds of stands offering delicacies from each of Peru’s diverse regions. There was a section dedicated to the ingeniously simple dish called ceviche, fish marinated in lime and chili. There was the carapulca stand, a rich and tasty stew created by the Afro-Peruvian descendants of slaves and traditionally served with cat meat (although fortunately not at Mistura!) There was an entire section given over to the worship of pisco and all the various cocktails it can be used in.
There was a huge grill, on which juicy skewers of anticucho, deliciously tender cubes of beef heart, were sizzling.
Inside a tent that was more like a temporary aircraft hanger, I found indigenous farmers displaying their wares; countless varieties of multicolored potato, maize of every hue, and creamy cherimoya fruit the size of your head.
Mistura is such a success because it reflects the diversity of Peru’s cuisine and history. Naturally, the very finest restaurants are all represented, serving tasters of their signature dishes. But then again so are all the common delicacies more often found on street corners.
Peruvians are rightly proud of their national cuisine, and in a country often divided by wealth, race and geography, Mistura offers a welcome celebration of national unity.
Sampling the delights is easy; visitors simply purchase food tickets which can be exchanged for dishes at each stall. The only trick is saving enough space to taste everything. Real foodies can only do the event justice by buying a multi-day ticket and coming every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If you are able to time your trip to Peru with the Mistura food festival you would be mad to skip the opportunity of experiencing the event for yourself.
Otherwise, food fanatics can arrange culinary tours and experiences, including taster sessions at top restaurants and Peruvian cooking classes by contacting a special interest tour operator, or a specialist in luxury Peru tours.