Intro by Shila Morris: Lisa Wardrip has been with the Squeeze In for nearly 2 ½ years and is one of the most hard-working, sweetest people we’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. She is our Sparks Squeeze In assistant manager, and long-time guest favorite. Lisa and her husband Brian love to travel and experience cultures outside of our own. Recently they traveled to Peru, and we asked if she would share what they loved – and didn’t – about the food culture in the beautiful South American country. Her insights and observations are here:
I Had Reservations
I recently traveled to Peru with my husband, filled with excitement about the things that I was going to see and do, but not so excited about food that we would eat while we were there. You see, I have this huge, mostly irrational, fear of getting food poisoning when I travel. I know it’s just one of those common misconceptions, but being food safety certified myself, I know how easy it is to get someone sick. I am always hesitant in areas where regulations might be more lax. It didn’t help that everyone I talked to either didn’t know anything about Peruvian food or didn’t like it.
When we touched down at the Lima airport we were picked up by a driver and a tour guide. As we traveled to our hotel we were told about all sorts of things about Peru, including the food. This is where we first heard that Peru is the “Gastronomical Capital of South America.” At first we were hesitant about this title, but soon came to understand that it meant this was a foodie place. Okay, perhaps I had been too harsh in my original judgements and maybe eating in Peru would be more fun than I had originally thought.
The First Taste
Our first meal in Peru was ceviche accompanied by pisco sours, Peru’s national drink. Delicious! It was the first time, but definitely not the last, that we enjoyed either one. Ceviche is a mixture of seafood in a citrus marinade with vegetables. It varies a lot from region to region, but it is always good. I’ve had ceviche here in the states, but it pales in comparison to what they are serving down in Peru. Full of flavor and incredibly fresh, it was hands down the best thing I had in Peru, and I am not ashamed to say we ate it nearly every day of our trip. Pisco sours are a mixed cocktail made from the base liqour of pisco, mixed with key lime or lemon juice, syrup, ice, egg whites and bitters.
Parade of Flavors
We tried many different things while we were there. One night we had chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and spinach, topped with a port and elderberry sauce. My husband ordered guinea pig one night and loved it (I was not brave enough to try it). We both tried alpaca. It wasn’t our favorite, but it was fun to try. Also, there are 3800 different types of potatoes in Peru. They differ in size, color, shape and taste. The few that we ate were amazing.
The service in Peru is very different from the service we expect in restaurants here (especially at the Squeeze In!). While we were there we learned that if we were in a hurry, we would not go to a restaurant to eat. There was no rush to get our drink order, and there were several times that we didn’t get our drinks until shortly before the food came out. The servers rarely checked on us. Once our food was dropped off we usually didn’t see the server again until our empty plates were pulled. The hardest part for us was that we had to ask for the check. Not once did a server bring the check before we asked for it. More often than not the server would be nowhere to be found after clearing our plates, making it difficult to ask for the check. Learning the customs from a different culture can be hard and frustrating!
I was pleasantly surprised by our amazing meals while we were on vacation. None of the food we ordered was a disappointment. We never really were pleased with the service – but we did know what to expect after a few days. And even though we met several people during our travels who did get sick, WE never did! The food we ate was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.
And I do believe that ceviche is my new favorite meal!