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Crossing the river before summiting 17,500 Pico Austria. Photo by Ella Williams (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest, 2nd Place), South America Semester.

Potatoes for a Week: The Relationship with Food in Q´eros

Before beginning our week long journey into Nacion Q’eros we didn’t know much about the place we would be living in for the next week, but we knew one thing, we would only be eating potatoes for a week straight. So without further adieu here is a detailed meal by meal breakdown of the last 7 days of my life:

 

Day 1

(Arrive in Queros after lunch)

Dinner – Skinned and boiled potato soup with a side of whole skin on boiled potatoes

 

Day 2

Breakfast – Chuno soup  (Dried potatoes that are then ground and made into a soup) with a side of whole skin on boiled potatoes

Lunch – Bread and jelly sandwiches that we packed in

Dinner – Skinned and boiled potato soup with some pieces of carrot with a side of whole skin on boiled potatoes

 

Day 3

Breakfast – Skinned and boiled potato soup/pasta with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes

Lunch – Whole skin-on boiled potatoes

Dinner – Skinned and boiled potato soup with some pieces of carrot with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes

 

Day 4

Breakfast – Skinned and boiled potato soup with some pieces of carrot with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes

Lunch – Whole skin-on boiled potatoes

Dinner – Skinned and boiled potato soup with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes (these  significantly more wrinkly than potatoes eaten over the rest of the trek.)

 

Day 5

Breakfast – Skinned and boiled potato soup with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes

Lunch – Whole skin-on boiled potatoes

Dinner – Quite delicious skinned and boiled potato soup with some pieces of carrot and a significant amount of pasta with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes as well as sweet turnips

 

Day 6

Breakfast – Really fantastic breakfast of these fried corn pancake/dumpling type things and skinned and boiled potato soup with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes

Lunch – Pachamanka (Sheep sacrifice in the morning will sheep cooked in tradition hot rock buried oven. Think similar to a hawaiian luau with the pig buried cooking method. Enjoyed with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes.)

Dinner – Skinned and boiled potato soup with some pieces of carrot and a significant amount of pasta with a side of whole skin-on boiled potatoes

 

Day 7

Breakfast – Leftovers from dinner

 

Although, it is quite repetitive to go through every meal after saying that we only ate, for potatoes for a week, I find that it is extremely difficult to appreciate this way of living without laying it out each day in detail. Before Q´eros I thought I was prepared for eating potatoes for a week, but after living it for a week I can confidently say that it is a lot more difficult than it sounds.

On our final afternoon in Q´eros the group gathered in the shelter of a cave for one of the many charlas or “chats” we’ve had regularly throughout the course. Although this charla started with our thoughts and reflections on watching the sacrifice of the sheep, the conversation soon turned to food. As rain and mist pelted the village of Kiko Chico and we sat in the cave with our stomachs full of a week’s worth of potatoes, Zack asked us to close our eyes and imagine our favorite food. With the starchy familiarity of potatoes being practically the only thing to grace my palate for the past week saliva flooded my mouth a I pictured my favorite food, Sushi. I imagined the perfectly textured rice and the way the finely sliced piece of tuna melts and combined with the rice as it hits the warmth of my mouth. I imagined all the different types of fish, all the different restaurants, and all the different people I have been lucky enough to enjoy sushi with. I was snapped out of my food craving stupor when Zack told us to open our eyes. He then asked someone to share what they had imagined with as great detail as they could with the group. I quickly raised my hand and then proceeded to share my description of my perfect piece of sushi. I described all my memories associated with sushi. I described the sushi restaurant by my house that I have so many fond memories associated with. It is probably my mom’s favorite restaurant and it has served as the place for many celebratory dinners for my family. From eating there the night I got into highschool, to eating there with my family the night before I departed for these three months in south america it congers up so many fond memories.

After sharing two more fellow students shared what they had imagined. Although grilled cheese and blueberries are not my favorite foods as are for them, the same theme remained constant throughout, their love for those foods are anchored in the memories and people they remind us of. Zack then proposed the question to us, “If you were to ask someone living in Qeros what their favorite food is what do you think they would say”? I thought about this for a moment and then it dawned on me, it is probably whatever food that conquers up fond memories of the occasion the food was shared over and the people it was enjoyed with. Maybe it’s not sushi that is enjoyed for a special occasion, but perhaps instead a special kind of potato or soup. It’s possible that this food is only enjoyed at that persons grandmother’s house or maybe just a couple times a year on special occasions. Perhaps this food brings about just a much or more emotion and memories that imagining sushi in that cave brought about for me. Yes, it is true when we were told that the people living in Qeros rarely eat more than potatoes for every meal, but that doesn’t mean that their relationship with food is any different than our own.