It's that time of the year again where turkeys are being fattened up and parents everywhere are running around to pet stores everywhere seeing if perhaps a guinea pig would make a great Christmas gift.
But let's imagine a world where things are a little bit backwards (or maybe WE are the ones that are backwards for insisting on spending half our wages on an overpriced hormone induced Turkey just because its tradition) and where guinea pigs aren't so much the X-mas present as they are the X-mas dinner.
If you can imagine that world, you are more than halfway to being prepared to have Christmas dinner with a family from Peru, Ecuador, Bolivian or any of the Andean regions where Cuy has been enjoyed for thousands of years.
Kids from North America who play with kids from the Andes regions, might end up having a row because one kids parents have taught them that guinea pigs are pets and the other kids parents have taught them that guinea pigs are an after school snack.
One of the joys of travel and embracing each countries cuisine is the surprises you get when you order something that you aren't 100% sure that you know what it is. My spanish is good enough for me to read the description of the menu and take a wild guess and what the dish is. Occasionally I come across a menu item that is out of my vocabulary. In times like these I always choose to let my adventurous side out and if the waiter tells me that it's an excellent choice I'll agree to it.
While visiting Viña del Mar in Chile, i came across a word in spanish that was foreign to me....congrio. But at the waiter's enthusiastic recommendation combined with my taste for the unknown, I agreed to give my tastebuds their first gamble with "Caldillo de congrio"
When the dish came I knew that I had ordered a fish stew of some sort. It was hot so while waiting for it to cool I googled it on my iphone and in a matter of seconds knew the truth about this dish I had ordered. "Congrio" is the name for conger eel, a species of eel that is common in the Chilean Sea. The dish is made by boiling together fish heads, onion, garlic, coriander, carrots, pepper. After the ingrediants are boiled stock is poured in.
Caldillo de Congrio is not only one of Chile's national dish but apparently was one of Pablo Neruda's favorites as well. He liked it enough to write a poem about it entitled "Oda al Caldillo de Congrio" (ode to eel soup). Click the link to read the poem as well as the translation into english.
The soup was warm, comforting, nurturing, as if one of the most flavorful sea creatures of ocean decided to have a pool party and invited some vegetables to join in as well. My introduction to this Chilean favorite was time perfectly as fall turned to winter here in South America and I needed something to both warm my body and soul....