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Clarification: In Peru, Cuyes Not Elite Food

Alejandro

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I'll probably get banned from this site for this, but I landed on here from the Guinea Pig Meat thread (which is now locked), and I just had to say the following:

Guinea pigs (in Quechua, cuy; plural cuyes) which originate in the Andes, are one of the oldest domesticated animals in human history, and a have been a key source of protein for Andean people for millenia.

When the Spanish arrived, not only did they conquer culture and religion, but also culinary habits. Pork, beef, and lamb, soon became preferred sources of protein. The cuy was relegated from an almost reverential position (in fact, there is an Inca saying, Raise cuyes and prosper!). Prior to the Conquest, cuyes were much larger than current breeds, but over time, they became associated with 'backward Indians' by most coastal Peruvians.

Eating cuy has NEVER been a tradition of the elites in Peru; the truth is completely the opposite.

It is a food of Andean Indians, who raise them still in traditional methods. Yes, there is a movement to expand the consumption of cuy in Peru, as a means to address the chronic malnourishment prevalent among the poor, and yes, there is also an effort to make cuy become a haute cuisine. But to say that in Peru, elites are at the forefront of cuy consumption is completely untrue.

In Peru, for many, eating cuy is looked down upon. And I think in the US and other parts of the world, it simply won't catch on, not because of the pet angle, but because of the rodent angle.

And as a kid, despite being Peruvian American, I did have a cuy as pet: my beloved Ginger the Guinea Pig, may she rest in peace.


Alejandro
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spoonyspork

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I for one actually do find that interesting. I had heard of guineas being used for food before (a Columbian friend of mine says it's the most expensive meat at any given restaurant where she's from, but has never dreamed of eating what she calls 'bunny-rats'), but never understood the *why* of it, both as an animal lover, and from a practical standpoint. I'd guess that, like rabbits, they don't give enough nutritional value to even bother eating them. I'd like to quote a book I have, where they talk about how a veggetarian who got the proper amount of beans and nuts in their diet would gain more protein than someone who ate just rabbit, and that the rabbit-eater would eventually die from lack of protein, while the bean and nut eater would do just fine... except I can't find the book right now. :/

Anywho, if what you're saying is correct, you might want to consider editing the wikipedia article on guinea pigs. There are lots of people getting the wrong idea about Peruvian people out there!

*edit*

Holy expletive! It looks like lots of people are getting the wrong ideas about guinea pigs, as well! It also looks like all references to the C&C website have been replaced by the Cavy Compendium website. Sheesh! Will they ever get mature? Bleh. I don't have time to change it right now... any takers?
 
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salana

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Thank you, Alejandro. It's always nice to have someone with personal experience here to inform us. Welcome to the forum!

Do you know how large guinea pigs are in Peru, on average?
 

Alejandro

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spoonyspork: thank you for your comment and for not just flaming me. I did go onto that Wikipedia page, but I didn't see what I could do to improve it. I must admit, I know this is a website for people who love guinea pigs as pets, and I do respect that, so it makes me feel uncomfortable talking about them as food, at least on this board.

I'm sure you're right about the bean/nut diet vs. rabbit diet, and the great thing about Andean pre-Conques gastronomy was the diversity of the cuisine because of all the microclimates between the desert coast, the Andean mountains, and the jungle regions. And of course the chasqui system, which were the runners/messengers who could bring fresh fish up from the coast to Cuzco in less than a day.

I discussed the emergence of the super cuy at Super Cuy.

All I wanted to do in my post is clarify that cuyes are not an elite food.

salana: thank you for your comments, I get a lot of my info about cuyes at the Peruvian National Agricultural Research Institute.


Alejandro
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