I have been a vegetarian since I was three years old (almost fourteen years) and at this point, I don’t even remember what meat tastes like. In the United States, being a vegetarian isn’t too hard, especially since in my family, eight out of the eleven people who live in my house are also vegetarians. Vegetables and fruit are easy to come by, and in restaurants I am reasonably confident that they are washed in water that won’t make me sick.
Peru, on the other hand, is a different story. Pretty much all dishes include meat – the usual chicken, steak, etc., and also Peruvian food like alpaca and cuy (guinea pig). Things that I would usually get in the United States, like salad, are also off limits because I don’t trust the water that they wash their vegetables in. With my personal ban on Andean cheese (it’s awful; only Daniel likes it), that limits my food intake quite a bit.
The places that we stay at, like Casa Elena, are very accommodating for vegetarians. They usually have soups for the first course without meat in them, and they will make me food without meat if the main course was supposed to have meat in it. With restaurants, it is a little harder. They usually only have a few dishes that are vegetarian, and a surprising amount of them are Italian – pizza, spaghetti, bruschetta.
Peruvians also have a different idea of what meat is. To them, “carne” does not include chicken, ham, sausage, and probably a few other things that I don’t know about. At Casa Elena, we had a fried rice dish with vegetables and sausage. When I asked them if it had meat in it, they said no. The same thing happened in Chinceros, with an omelet that had ham in it. I don’t know if to them, vegetarian means someone who just doesn’t eat beef and that kind of meat, or if something got lost in translation, but luckily I noticed there was meat in the food before I ate it.
As amazing as Peru is, I have to say that I can’t wait to go home and get some American food.