When we think of guinea pigs, we see the cute little pets with super soft fur. However, this is not the case in the rest of the world! In Peru, a guinea pig is not seen as a pet, but as a delicious meal. Eating guinea pigs is a very common thing. In fact, it is their national dish! That’s why we decided to surprise our Peruvian moms on Mother’s Day with a guinea pig (and flowers of course).
I can understand that your first reaction when reading the intro sounded a bit like this: “Huh? Guinea pig as a meal? EW!” Yet it is a very well known dish in Peru. Also in other Andean countries like Bolivia and Ecuador Cuy -as they call the guinea pig- has been eaten for years. Even before the Europeans invaded in the 16th century! The latter brought the animal to Europe with the function of a pet instead of a meal.
The guinea pig is served in prominent restaurants frequented by tourists, but also in small local restaurants for rich and poor people. Guinea Pig is also the highlight of many family parties. Usually, it is women who are at the helm of these things. They pass on their knowledge about the meal from generation to generation. It is a gem of Peruvian culture.
Yet not all tourists like the dish. This is mainly due to the presentation of the guinea pig. The head and legs of the animal are often put on the plate so that the animal remains recognizable. Moreover, such a small animal is a lot of nibbling, but the Peruvians have no problem with that, they eat it very tasty with their hands.
Why are they so popular? Guinea pigs are very cheap, require little maintenance, and breed quickly. That is why we often see them in poor families. There, they usually just walk around in the kitchen or another room. They live off the leftover food so the families don’t have to look after the animal, which is very convenient for them.
To surprise the mothers of the children of Oye LENA, we brought them a guinea pig and a bunch of flowers for Mother’s Day. And how happy they were! It was a great pleasure for us to see how happy they were with this attention. However, what they do with the guinea pig is their own choice. Some will prepare a delicious plate with it, while others choose to keep it as a companion during the lockdown, which still applies in Curahuasi.