Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rock in Lima

Franz FerdinandFranz Ferdinand via

Over the last couple of years, Lima has started seeing a lot more concerts than it has in past years. It started with people like Roger Waters, the Cranberries... You know, people that are popular, but no 'A list' types of acts. But that's changed, especially recently.

My favorite band, Cafe Tacuba, has been here twice in the last year. Faith No More was here recently, as was Metallica. Depeche Mode played a great show, and Guns n Roses was here this past week, which of course stirred a controversy as the show started hours late. Aerosmith and Muse both have shows coming up.

Something that's got my attention lately is the group Franz Ferdinand. They're here in Lima now, and are playing a show tonight*. The reason it got my attention is because for two weeks or so, I've been seeing news item after news item about the band. Just little blurbs about how they love Peruvian music, or Peruvian food, or just in general about how they can't wait to sight-see while they're here. For some reason, I never thought about FF being a band that would be well known in Lima, so it's been a surprise to see how much press they've gotten. They went out sightseeing and shopping yesterday, and we got a daily update on their music buying while in Lima Cercado. As a fan of the band, it's been fun seeing how they're getting more press than a lot of the big, 'super bands' that have been here.

I'm excited to see what more is on the horizon for rock music in Lima, and look forward to hitting a few shows myself in the future.

*edited - oops! had the dates mixed up, the Franz Ferdinand show was last night. And apparently, it was great!

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Free Cook Books!

First Sun-Maid packaging to feature a likeness...Image via Wikipedia

I was surfing the web for recipes (because that's what I do) and came across this pretty cool page from Sun-Maid Raisins. They've been sharing recipes using raisins and other dried fruits for almost 100 years, and in celebration have posted this collection of cookbooks dating back to 1915. It's really interesting to read the recipes and cooking tips from back then, and see how much - and how little - has changed in cooking.

Check it out!

100 Years of Recipes

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Angel Hair in Garlic Butter

A garlic press, with pressed garlic.Image via Wikipedia

I'm a nut for garlic. I'll eat it in just about anything. For a long time, the only way I'd eat spaghetti was with butter and a bit of garlic salt sprinkled on top - it's still a favorite snack for me.

Well, I made a stir fry the other night, and cooked up too much pasta, so I'm going to use up the rest of the noodles today for my lunch. I've got spaghetti noodles, but angel hair is perfect for this recipe.

This makes 6-8 servings.

1 kg (2 lbs) angel hair pasta
4 tbsp butter
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp limon juice
2 tbsp chopped parsley
6 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste

1) In a large pot, boil three liters (3 quarts) of water, add the pasta, stir to separate and let cook for about 5 minutes.
2) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat and add the garlic. Cook until golden, then add the lemon juice, stir, and set aside, off the heat.
3) When the pasta is ready, drain it in a colander, then add it to the frying pan with the parsley. Mix it all well, and serve topped with the Parmesan.

If you'd like something a little more, add sliced mushrooms with the garlic. Add a little olive oil to the butter for more flavor. Serve with Italian Sausage, or a Parmesan fish main course.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Making Chicken Stock

The most amazing chicken stock batch yet!Image by Librarianguish via Flickr

I use chicken stock for a lot of things... well, not a lot of things, but a couple important things. Chicken soup and aji de gallina. In Peru, people seem to take their chicken soup very seriously, and if you want a good soup, you need to start with a good stock. This is how I do it.

Start with a pollo a la braza. If you're in the US, a rotisserie chicken from your grocery store will do.

Pick all the meat off - we usually eat the legs/thighs, then use the breast to make something else. Save all your bones!

Put the carcass minus the meat in a large stock pot. Add a whole onion, a carrot or two and a couple sticks of celery if you like that sort of stuff. (I do NOT like celery and never use it for anything.) Add a bay leaf and I like to add about 1/2 teaspoon of basil.

And a teaspoon of salt. I'd rather not add too much now, because I might use this for soup, and I might use it for aji de gallina, or ... who knows what else. I just want to have the salt content under control before I use it for something else.

Cover it with water, and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for a couple hours.

Let it cool, then strain it to get all bones, veggies etc out of it.

What you've got now is a couple liters of super tasty chicken stock.

Why is it stock, and not broth? Generally, stock is made from boiling the bones. Broth is made from boiling meat. Stock gets gelatin from the bones, so it's better for using in sauces and stuff, dontcha know. Broth tends to have a richer flavor, and tastes more like a finished product that stock.

Speaking of stock and gelatin - If you have the feet from your chicken, clean them well, cut off the toe tips, and throw them in with the carcass. They give the stock a really nice texture - and you can just strain them out later and toss them if the idea of chicken feet in your soup grosses you out. ;)
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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

TP or Not TP.... That is the Question

Toilet paperImage via Wikipedia

There are two things about toilet paper in Peru that you need to know. First of all, always - ALWAYS - carry some with you. Second, when in doubt, don't flush it.

Before I came to Peru, I had read something about carrying TP with you while you traveled. I assumed, in my naivety, that meant to places like Machu Picchu, or the jungle - you know, when you got away from 'civilization'. No. It means when you go to the grocery store, or McDonald's, or.. anywhere. You're never assured of having TP available. Of course, you're never assured of having anything remotely resembling a clean bathroom available either, but I digress. ;)

Now, things are better than they were 6 years ago - as the economy here has improved, I've noticed an increase in TP provisioning. One thing to watch out for is the 'master TP roll'. At many public restrooms, instead of having a roll in each stall there will be a large roll on the wall out by the sinks. You get the TP you need, and then take it in the stall with you. This is supposed to keep people from stealing, I think... but really it just encourages them to take much more than they need.

Another thing you'll see, especially in markets, is the pay-per-use TP. There will be a person sitting at a little booth out front of the bathrooms, and you'll pay 50 centimos for a small amount of TP to take in with you. If you need more, you have to pay twice.

Now. About disposing of this TP, assuming you've been able to find some. While things are improving in the newer areas of Lima, most plumbing in Peru is very old. Pipes are narrow. I've heard some old pipes are made of terra cotta, whose interior has gone rough and 'clingy' over time. The point is, paper doesn't like to pass. I've seen the horrors of narrow pipes here in my own home. So most Peruvians toss their used TP in little waste bins in the bathroom rather than flushing. I know, it seems unhygienic - but it's a 1000 times less icky than having toilets running over in your bathroom and unholy masses of filth being plucked from the pipes by the plumber.

So, if you plan on coming to Peru my advice to you is:
Always have a spare roll of TP in your purse or backpack.
Don't Flush!
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

La Llorona and El Cuco

"You Can't Get Away Now, Llorona!"Image by garlandcannon via Flickr

It sounds like some crazy pair of South American bandits, but they're actually the main characters of two Peruvian folk tales.

For those not in the know, this week is World Folktales and Fables Week, so I thought I'd tell you about a few of the tales that I've heard since I've been here.

La Llorona
(lah yore-OWN-a)

There are tales of La Llorona (the crying lady) all through South America, and it's particularly popular in Mexico. Here in Peru, the story I was told goes like this: There was an indigenous woman who fell deeply in love with a Spanish nobleman, and he with her. Although his family forbid him to marry her, they maintained a relationship and even had children. Then, one day the nobleman's father announced that they had found the perfect Spanish lady for his son to marry. When she heard the news, his lover was so distraught that she took her children down to the Rio Rimac (some people say she took them to the beach) and drowned them. When she came to her senses and realized what she had done, she killed herself. Now, her ghost wanders the banks of the river, sobbing and crying out 'Donde estan mis hijos?' (where are my children?) It's said that if she finds children out alone after dark, she'll drag them into the river to join her and her family.

El Cuco
(el COO-coh)

El Cuco is one of my favorite Peruvian folktales. It's another story that's popular in much of S. America, and is also known in Spain and Portugal. El Cuco is very much like the boogeyman of North America, in that he's used to frighten disobedient children. His appearance has changed over the years and from place to place, but in Peru he's thought to be a large hairy beast with large teeth. What's really frightening about him though, isn't how he looks, but in what he does. He kidnaps children, takes them away and most likely eats them - but they're never seen again. It's a common thing to hear a parent say 'if you don't eat your dinner, the Cuco will take you away!' (No wonder children are terrified of the dark!) It's such a well known story that Lima's main newspaper used it as the theme for a television ad.

Comercial El Cuco - El Comercio
Cargado por morris_cristhian. - Descubre más videos creativos.

(Kid won't eat his liver, El Cuco comes to take him away, the kid argues that the food's really bad. El Cuco tries it out, and is so disgusted he takes mom instead - takes her to buy a series of recipes published by the newspaper!)

(peesh TAH koh)

The final tale in our gruesome threesome today is one that was actually in the news a bit lately. The Pishtaco is another type of boogeyman, this one from the Southern Andes, although it's known all over Peru. Generally reported as being a white skinned man, the Pishtaco likes to kidnap unsuspecting Indians and steal the fat from their bodies, and sometimes fry them up as chicharrones. Pishtaco comes from the Quechua word pishtay which means to behead. In the past, belief in the pishtacos has caused some problems for everyone from early Spanish missionaries to US aid programs; people thought it might be a plan just to fatten children up for later 'harvesting'. The belief in the pishtaco exists to this day, and recently made headlines when it was used as a cover-up for alleged extrajudicial police killings.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Free Pastry at Starbucks!

Hey, are you one of those folks that goes to Starbucks every morning? Then tomorrow's your lucky day - go here and print out a coupon for a free pastry. But remember - it's only good for tomorrow, before 10:30 am - the early bird gets the danish!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Aji Molido, or Pepper Sauce: The Spice of Peruvian Cooking

don CuchoImage by TravelingMan via Flickr

There's been so much going on around here lately that I've kinda been slacking on recipes and cooking stuff. Well, that just won't do for a blog that's s'poseta be about what we're eating! So let's see if we can't start making a little amends for that.

I read an article in the news today that said that a full 42% of tourists who come to Peru make their decision based at least in part on the food! That's right - people are coming here just because everything is SO delicious! And one of the things that makes it so delicious is the wonderful spices used in cooking. The most important of the spices are the different kinds of aji (ah-HEE), or peppers, used to give the food heat and flavor. No matter what food is served, there's always a little bowl, jar or bottle of liquified aji on the side. And today, I'm going to tell you how it's made. Yay!

It takes about 12 aji (amarillo, panca or mirasol) to make one cup of aji molido.
Take your aji, and devein/deseed them.
Put them in a pot, cover with water and bring it to a boil.
When they're soft (it doesn't take long) take them out of the water and peel them.
Liquify in the blender - you can add a little of the water you used to boil them in to get the consistency right. Some people like to add a little oil for consistency instead of water.

This will last in the refrigerator for about 3 days. If you want to make a lot in advance, you can put it in ice cube trays and freeze it in single servings like that.

Finally - a lot of times when I put recipes on here, I tell people to check at their local Latin market for ingredients. But what if you live in a place where there isn't a Latin market, or if you just aren't able to find the ingredients you want? is your FRIEND! Check out some of the stuff I've found there:

Pasta de Aji Amarillo/Hot Yellow Pepper Paste
Aji Amarillo, Destemmed - 1 Lb Bag / Box Each
Salsa de Aji Panca/Panca Pepper Sauce

....among others. So, if you've had trouble finding ingredients for cooking up delicious Peruvian recipes, check out

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Speaking of School and Combis...

My oldest son is now 13 years old, and this year has started in the 1st grade of secondary classes. It's the equivalent of 7th grade - middle school or junior high - in the US. The previous school the boys were enrolled in only included primary classes, so we had no choice but to look into new schools. These new school is located here in Miraflores, as I believe I mentioned before, and seems to be a really good school - lots of discipline and rule enforcement, which we have found lacking in the past.

However, it seems that in secondary school, the kids are a lot more independent. Which, don't get me wrong, is a very good thing. Except, they all take the bus to school and home. Alone. This is not something that makes me happy. And no, this isn't one of those situations where my kids is saying 'But Mooooooooom, all the other kids are riding the bus!'. No, this is a situation where my husband is telling me that we're making a sissy pariah out of our son by taking him to school and picking him up each day.

Well, the good news is that there's a combi that runs literally from our front door to the entrance of the school. In the evenings coming home, he'd have to walk down to the opposite corner to get the bus coming home, but still, it's right there within sight of the school entrance. And then get dropped off right in front of the house.

The bad news is that, of course, this isn't the ONLY bus that runs by that corner, and coming home he'll have to be extra careful that he gets on the right bus or he might end up in Chorrillos.

So, we made several trial runs, riding the bus with him, but letting him flag it down and make the decision. And then last night, he was on his own. I suppose I don't have to tell you, I was a nervous wreck. He should have been home by 630pm, and when he wasn't we called his cell phone - he was still by the road, waiting for the bus. He said the buses go by so fast, he was having trouble telling which one was the right one. By this time it was nearly dark - so we told him just to flag down every bus, and ask them if they go on our street. 20 minutes later, he was home!

This is such a huge step in the life of a parent - and of a child. On the one hand, it's great knowing that my kid is maturing, and growing and that we've taught him well enough that he can handle doing this on his own. On the other hand, as a former juvenile delinquent, my mind is full of visions of him catching the bus to the beach instead of school, or taking off to his friend's house without telling us. I guess it's just another one of those times when we've got to trust him to do the right thing... right?
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Thursday, March 18, 2010

I'm so Clumsy!

Our dear, sweet Chance (in the picture with my son, David) had this really bad habit of laying in front of the French doors leading out of my bedroom. It's bad, because we have privacy curtains on those doors, and you can't see him laying there as you start to pass through. Well, yesterday it happened - I was leaving the bedroom, and there was Chance. I tried to stop in my tracks so as not to step on him, and got my flipflop stuck on the tv cable that runs along the door ledge... pulled it up and lost my flipflop, and then slammed my big toe onto one of the carpet nails that had previously doing a great job of holding the cable down. The nail very kindly took a big chunk of toe from me. I shall very kindly not post a picture of how nasty it looks. But... ow! :(

In other news, the kitchen makeover is coming along swimmingly (as I limp around and write articles and blog posts, my mom is doing all the real work) and my husband Arturo is working on getting all the baseboards in the house painted a nice clean white again. This house is going to be gorgeous!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kitchen Re-do!

When we moved into the house we now live in, one of the things we didn't like about it was the
color in the kitchen. First of all, most of the walls are white tile, up to about 5 feet high - super easy to keep clean, but kind of gives it a hospital/morgue feel - especially with the big stainless steel sink on one side and the big tile wall divider that splits the kitchen in half. The worst though, was the walls above the tile - they were painted this horrible, dingy burnt orange color. It was just wretched.

Well, as I've mentioned before, there was some construction being done in the lot next to us. And as repayment for the inconvenience (and damage) that they did to our house, they painted our kitchen. We chose a lovely bright color, called Ocean Sigh. Now, we're adding accent colors - and when I say 'we', I'm talking about my hard-working mom - and we chose this super cute green apple color (as you can see from the pictures!) that we got from Sodimac.

My mom has been hard at work - she painted and reupholstered the little stool in this picture, and is painting the kitchen shelves now, as you see above. My husband took apart the little cabinet in the picture and painted it. We'd like to put some new hinges on it to finish the look. My mom was lucky enough to find those cute placemats that you see under the toaster. We'll post some before and after pictures when the whole thing's done.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Buses and Micros and Combis - Oh My!

Colegialas y microsImage by pierre pouliquin via Flickr

I have a love/hate relationship with public transportation here in Lima. While I love the fact that's cheap, convenient and can get me pretty much anywhere I want to go, I hate how crowded and uncomfortable it is. And dirty. And cramped. And dangerous. But apart from that, I like taking the bus! :D

You can catch a bus or combi from just about any main street in Lima, and the cost to go from one end of the line to the other is rarely more than a sol - about 35 cents US (at the current exchange rate). If you're just going a few blocks, you can ride for a 'china' - that's the slang term for a Peruvian 50 centimos piece.

Despite great prices, the transportation here is really substandard for a city of this size. Buses and vans are poorly maintained, and often carry far too many passengers. In the race for paying customers, the drivers speed and weave through traffic, trying to get to the next 'paradero' (bus stop) before the other buses. While there are laws and regulations, it's too easy for drivers and company owners to get by on bribery. Too many people are killed and injured each year.

Fortunately, it seems the city is working on it, though - the new high speed bus line is supposed to be up and running soon, and progress has begun again on the electric train system that's been sitting unfinished since the 80's. It will be exciting to see it finished - and I look forward to riding in the new buses!
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Back to School

Franco and his prizeImage by fnnkybutt via Flickr

School started up last week for my kids, and let me tell ya, we got off to a rough start. My oldest son is starting secondary school this year - that would be the equivalent of 7th grade in the US. It was really hard for him; he's had some tough times in school before, where he was victimized by some bullies when he was in first grade, and that combined with his innate shyness has made starting in a new school a real trial for him. Before, he was in school with his younger brother, but this year, Franco (the young one) has morning classes and David is on his own with the older kids in afternoon classes.

Without giving too much detail and embarrassing my poor baby if he ever reads this, the first day of school nearly gave him a nervous breakdown (me too!). Leaving him at that school, knowing how terrified he was, has to be one of the hardest things I've done as a parent. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do - and in the end, it all worked out ok, and he's super happy at the school now.

So, if you're starting your kids in a Peruvian school, what can you expect? Well, our kids are in public school, which surprisingly enough doesn't make much difference in the amount of supplies we have to buy. We had to get each boy a notebook for each subject, the requisite pencils, colored pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners and so on. Also, there were things like poster paper, large graph papers (called papelographo), markers and pens for the teachers, and even 10 rolls of toilet paper each. When we had them in private school, we had to buy floor wax, pine cleaner and other cleaning supplies for the school! I think a lot of people coming from the US public school system would be shocked at the amount of supplies we buy for our kids here.

If you're putting your kids in a private (called 'colegio particular) school, be prepared to pay - monthly tuition ranges from a low end of around $100 up to $1000 or so for the best International schools. Check the Expat website for a list of schools in Lima that are affiliated with the International Baccalaureate program - they also have some schools listed for other cities in Peru.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Peru and the Oscars

Last night we were all very excited about the chance of seeing 'La Teta Asustada' win for Best Foreign Language film at the Oscars. Unfortunately, it didn't win, but as my husband said, 'At least the Oscar went to South America'. (I say 'Darn you, Argentina!)

But I absolutely love how events like this pull Peruvians together as a country. People who had never watched the Oscar ceremonies before - shoot, people who had never heard of the Academy Awards before - were all excited and star struck at the fact that another Peruvian had done good and put us in the limelight. Magali Solier, the star of 'La Teta Asustada' has been featured and interviewed on news programs all week, and her trip to Hollywood for the ceremony was chronicled for those of us at home. And such a trip it was. I couldn't help but fall just a little bit in love with her, this young woman from Ayacucho who grew up speaking Quechua during the difficult years when Sendero Luminoso was making life dangerous and difficult for people in Peru. The movie (called “The Milk of Sorrow” in English) explores abuses inflicted on Peruvian women during that time period.

Here in Lima, a giant screen was set up in the main square to show the Oscars live. Even though the movie didn't win, it was a great moment for Peru, and the movie itself gives hope that we are moving on from the tragedies in Peru's past.
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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I Have a Carnet Again, Pt. 3

So, when last we visited, I told you about all the paperwork we had and how we had turned it all in at the various windows. All the hard work was done, and basically it was just a matter of coming back to have a new (duplicate) carnet de extranjeria handed over to me. I was under the impression that I would not need to take a new picture, that they would just use the digital photo they had from before - that's what they did on my LAST duplicate carnet.

Although they had told us to come back Saturday for the tasa anual, and the next Wednesday for the duplicate carnet, we skipped Saturday and did it all Wednesday. No point in making more trips than we had to.

So, we show up Wednesday and went to the window 18 with our receipt. No. We had to go to window 6. So we go to window six, and had to give them some information - height, weight, hair and eye color stuff. Then we were told everything was ready, and to go have a seat by the little room where they take the pictures.

Wait... WHAT? I need a picture??? UGH. If I'd know, I would have, oh, I don't know, maybe washed my hair instead of just throwing it back in a ponytail.

But I digress. We went off and waited, and about 10 minutes later, they called my name. 'Yes, Senora, it seems we don't have a record of you paying the prorroga of residencia, please go to window 2, 3 or 4 and get that taken care of.'


Ok, we go to the window, and he tells me I owe for one year - S/.41.04, take this form (F-007, what a surprise ;)) and pay at the Banco de la Nacion, then come back here. We also needed: A copy of my passport, a copy of my carnet (we used the police report), a copy of my husband's DNI, a copy of the Acto de Matrimonio, and a letter from my husband (a carta de garantia) saying that he vouched for me morally and financially. We didn't have a new carta de garantia, and the really nice guy in Window 2 told us it wasn't a problem, just to write one out by hand while we were waiting in line for the bank. So that's what we did.

We took all that back to window 2, and were once again told to wait. A few minutes later, they called me for the picture. They took a set of digital fingerprints, and had me sign it, took the picture, then sent me out to wait again. About 10 minutes later, they called me and handed me my card.


Some things to take away - It didn't seem to matter that I was late paying the Prorroga, and because I'm a resident married to Peruvian, I didn't have to pay the fine for being late on the tasa anual. If you are NOT in one of the exonerated categories (MTP or religious), I would highly recommend that you pay the tasa on time to avoid paying the fine (up to $100 for the year, I believe).

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Monday, March 1, 2010

I Have a Carnet Again, Pt. 2

So, once I had that list of stuff I mentioned in the last post, we were ready to move.

I've found, if you aren't sure what you need to do in immigrations, the best thing to do is go to the information booth. It's the little glass walled booth immediately to the left of the door as you walk in. Tell them what your problem is, and they'll give you what form you need and tell you where to take it, and how much you need to pay at the bank. If you're Spanish isn't good, you might need them to repeat it a few times, and you might want to ask for more details if they aren't clear - they tend to be rushed and say things like 'Fill out this form and turn it in with your receipt from the bank'. So just ask them 'how much do i have to pay?' or, 'what window do I turn it into?' until you feel like you have enough info to move on.

In our case, we had to fill out 3 F-007's - 2 for two years of exoneration for the tasa anual, and 1 for the duplicate carnet. We paid the bank for all three of those, then brought the paperwork back to the Mesa de Partes - that's the people behind the windows on the first floor, to the right of the information booth as you're facing it. They gave us a ticket for the exonerations and told us to come back in 2 days. THIS is why many people feel it's better to just pay the tasa rather than do the exoneration. You can do the tasa in one day, where as paying the exoneration means you have to come back. But, since a) I was late and didn't want to pay a fine, and b) we were going to have to come back for the replacement carnet anyway, it was in our best interest to pay for the exoneration.

After that, we took the paperwork for the replacement carnet upstairs to Window 6. I might be mistaken, but I believe it usually goes to window 12, but it was so late in the day by this time, they were closing up. I guess I haven't mentioned yet - if you aren't there by 1pm, you're out of luck, because that's when they close the doors. So, we turned in our paperwork, and and were given another ticket and told to come back a few days later. No problem!

Tomorrow, I'll tell you what happened when we came back.