The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Adventures in Eating, part 3 – the Pachamanca

A few days before we leave it is time for a celebration dinner, and for the Peruvian Andes, this means Pachmanca, which literally means "earthen pot" in the local language.  

Laurie & Billy Drum's house

The preparation starts the day before when eight of us head out to Billy and Laurie’s house ( to shuck corn, and shell it.  It should only take a few hours we are told, and yet three hours later we’re only half way through the first bag of corn and there are two. 
The gringo crew, plus one.

Laurie tells us that the Peruvian ladies from her church have already pulled her aside  and said that if her “gringos can’t finish, the job, they would be happy to help later.”  Later turns out to be in about an hour when one by one, they join our work circle to shuck, and shell and then suddenly we were finished. 
In center you can see help in on the way.

I worked beside this lady who was amazingly fast at shelling corn

Tomorrow morning, Laurie will take the shelled kernels to be ground into tamale masa, to which sugar and vanilla will be added to make a dessert tamale that will top the Pachamanca.

heating up rocks

When we arrive the next morning, four strong fires are already going, heating the grapefruit sized river stones that will provide the raw heat to cook the Pachamanca. 

Pachamanca is a Peruvian Thanksgiving meal, usually held after the harvest comes in.  Like American Thanksgiving, it takes much of the morning to prepare, and involves a lot of people.  So it isn’t so much about the food, as it is about the community it builds, and what it means to come together and work for several hours.
Suzanne - the Tamale Queen

Suzanne gets to work organizing the  tamale makers, and I play soccer which at age 52 and at 12000 ft, means they make me a defender, and give me a small part of the field to defend.  In this case defend means that anytime the ball comes into my area, I just try to muck up whatever play the other team is running and then catch my breath.  

With the rocks are hot, and the tamales are finished, its time to take the build the Pachamanca in layers.  So into the brick lined hole is layered:

  1. Potatoes (maybe four or five different types)
  2. Hot rocks
  3. Meat (lamb, beef, chicken, not mixed but in different fires)
  4. Hot rocks
  5. Tamales
  6. Grass with yellow flowers
  7. Green fava beans
  8. Burlap sacks
  9. Cardboard boxes
  10. Dirt to cover.

Potatoes, ready to cook.

Adding meat, in this case chicken

Hot rocks on top of meat, then tamales

Then the grass with yellow flowers is added

Grass with yellow flowers.

Fava beans added

burlap, or in this case, a blanket covers the food.

then cardboard boxes cover the blankets.

And dirt covers the cardboard, and used to plug any leaks

Then it cooks for an hour...

and its nap time for Steve.

Now we gringos try to build the Pachamancas as we are instructed, but by the end, as you can see in the pictures, the experts have taken over, and are doing a much better job.  There are four mounds of dirt that will cook for an hour, so I take a nap and Suzanne plays volleyball. 
opening up the panchamanca

When they are being uncovered, the food comes in different waves for us to sample.  First the now steamed fava beans, which I’ve never had this way and they are delicious.  

Next come the tamales, which are sweet, a bit more gooey than our TexMex tamales, and still it takes me several to come to this conclusion.  

Then the meat, and potatoes are put into buckets to serve, and everyone lines up to fill their plates.
Dinner is served!

Peruvians eat their main meal at lunch, and so they mound up their plates with huge amounts of food.  The gringos are a bit more reserved, but there are huge smiles on everyone, and we’re hungry.  It seems like the whole village comes out to eat, and there is plenty of food, and we have not even uncovered the fourth mound.  It is just like a Thanksgiving Dinner.

And then the village dogs show up and they eat very well.


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