Blog: Balance
by JeSuisButterfly

Venezeula and Peru

MMN, COCONUTS!! This is going to be AWESOME!

Date:   8/28/2006 8:42:19 PM   ( 15 y ) ... viewed 6549 times

Venezuela

Venezuela is the sixth largest country in South America lying at the northern end of the continent. It is bordered by Colombia to the West, Brazil to the South, Guyana to the East, and the Caribbean Sea to the North and really, is as much a Caribbean country as a South American one. The landscape consists of mountains (The Andes), large areas of Amazonian rain forests, central fertile plains, lowlands to the north and a 2,800km coastline on the Caribbean Sea. It even has even a small desert. Add to this a tropical climate and you have all the ingredients to produce fine home grown livestock and crop.

Ancient Times and Influences

In early times the rich and bountiful lands of Venezuela easily sustained the hunter-gatherer nomads occupying the area and archaeological evidence shows that by 2,000 BC, three main tribes namely the Arawaks, Caribs and Chibcha had settled in the coastal and Llanos (plains) regions. Although all of them practiced farming to some extent, the fact that they had an abundance of fish, seafood, wild animals and indigenous fruit and vegetables on their doorsteps meant that full time farming wasn’t essential. However, complicated crop irrigation and agricultural methods were practiced by the Chibcha, the most advanced of the three tribes who lived on the eastern slopes of the Andes.

One important crop cultivated early on (certainly by the Arawaks) was cassava, a root vegetable from which bread was made. They also grew corn (maize), squash, beans, peppers, sweet potatoes, yams and peanuts.

The arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1498 brought with it Spanish colonisation. Initially searching for gold, attentions were soon turned to agriculture and with enthusiasm for chocolate reaching fever pitch in Europe by the mid 1700s, cocoa plantations were all the rage in Venezuela. At first indigenous Indian labour was used, however with a decrease in the population due to “imported” diseases such as measles and smallpox, slaves from Africa were soon to be imported, bringing with them their cultures and culinary habits.

Also a large number of Spanish immigrants were attracted to Venezuela. With few Spanish women willing to brave this New World country, the European men soon intermixed with both the indigenous Indian women and the imported African women adding another dimension to the country’s cuisine and the beginnings of a more diverse population and cuisine.

The raising of cattle also became an important economic venture and many ranches or haciendas sprung up across the plains.


Current Day Cuisine

The food in Venezuela today is a mixture of African, native Indian and European cuisines which has evolved over the centuries. It also shares many Caribbean influences in its flavours, techniques and ingredients. It is a flavoursome but not necessarily hot cuisine, using ingredients like sweet peppers, garlic, onions and coriander as flavour enhancers.

Corn is a staple and is used to make pancakes of one type or another although wheat is also used. Instead of bread, most Venezuelans eat arepas which are fried or baked corn pancakes, either plain or with a filling. You can find out more about Arepas in the Speciality Dish in this section. Other staples include beans and rice.

Fried and grilled fish such as trout, red snapper, baby shark (cazon), and shellfish such as oysters prawns and clams are popular and meats such as beef and chicken are common everyday foods, although other meats such as goat are preferred in certain regions, with pork eaten mostly at Christmas.

There is still an abundance of locally grown fruit and vegetables in Venezuela including Mango, papaya , avocado, bananas, coconut, melon, pineapple and guava. Cassava is still widely cultivated as are plantains which are served at most meals, rice, potatoes and yams. Yellow, black, and white beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, aubergine, cucumber and peas are amongst the many other vegetables grown and extensively consumed.

The largest meal in Venezuela is eaten between 12 and 3pm and many Venezuelans return home for lunch. The evening meal usually consists of a light supper at around 8pm or later.

***

Peru

Land of the Incas, The Republic of Peru is situated in South America. There are three main geographical regions: desert along the western coastline bordering the Pacific Ocean, mountainous in the central region and in the east, low-lying tropical plains in the Amazon River basin.

Ancient Times and Influences

Between 1100 to 1300, the Inca tribe migrated into the area although one of the oldest dishes of Peru which is still prepared today, dates back 1500 years, pre-Inca. It's called Pachamanca which means "food cooked under ground." In this recipe, meat, root crops and corn are placed in the bottom of a leaf-lined pit and seasoned with cinnamon and cloves. A final layer of leaves are used to seal the food in, then the whole thing is topped with hot stones, covered with earth and left to cook for 12 hours.



With the varying climates in the three main regions, Peru had a wealth of "indigenous" crops and livestock to feature in everyday cooking, with its staple foods being corn and potatoes and not forgetting fish and seafood which were abundantly caught along its extensive coastline. Grains such as Kiwicha and Quinoa were also staples of the Inca diet, being high sources of protein.



In 1532 the Spanish invaded the country in search of riches and found them in the form of large deposits of gold and silver. They stayed until 1821 by which time they had introduced vegetables and herbs such as lettuce, onions, coriander, parsley, oranges and limes, plus wheat, chicken, pork and lamb as well as elements of their culture and cuisine.


Current Day Cuisine

Peruvian cooking differs by region. Whilst potatoes, corn and rice are still the staples of everyday cuisine, the three varying climates each have their own influences on what is cooked.

Along the costal region, as one might expect, the concentration is on seafood and shellfish with other favourites being kid and chicken. In the central highlands, a more substantial style of cooking prevails: meat served with rice or potatoes being the mainstay of the diet. In the Amazon jungle regions, the diet consists mainly of fish such as river trout, supplemented with tropical fruit and vegetables such as sweet potatoes and plantains. Wild boar, turtle, monkey and piranha fish are some of the more exotic ingredients used.

A common ingredient used throughout Peru is Ají, a hot chili pepper which is used to spice up many dishes.



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