Peru becomes gastronomic destination

Peruvian cuisine is becoming a global brand, and its popularity is bringing hundreds of thousands of people to its annual gourmet food festival.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

When the chairman of Peru's Gastronomy Society set out to research the history of Peru's famous seafood dish, cebiche – raw fish marinated in lemon juice, spices, and julienned onions – his goal was twofold: to explain the context from which it was born and to internationalize it.

“We're building a global brand for Peruvian cuisine,” says Mariano Valderrama, author of “The Roots and Flavors of the Cebiche.” “Gastronomy will serve as the locomotive to push Peru's trains of agriculture and tourism.”

Restaurants serving Peruvian gourmet fare have popped up in such countries as Chile, Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Panama, Ecuador, and Venezuela during the past five years. Food guru Anthony Bourdain has declared Lima the “gastronomical capital” of South America.

Within a year of the late 2007 launch of Peru's Gastronomy Society, the roughly 200-member organization created the country's first national gourmet food festival, called Mistura. Attendance jumped sevenfold within two years of Mistura's inaugural 2008 launch, attracting 200,000 people in 2010. Nearly 300,000 people are estimated to have attended this year's mid-September festival.

Founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1535, Lima's position along the Pacific coast has brought a steady influx of immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa, and the mountainous Andean regions into the Peruvian capital. Peru's national cuisine mirrors this with a unique fusion of Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, African, Andean, and native American flavors.

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