Living In A Different World

Roasted Guinea Pigs Are A Delicacy*

* Known in the local Kichwa language as cuy, the furry little creatures are flattened and roasted whole over an open fire. You won’t find them on every restaurant menu in Quito.

This is a premium priced specialty dish served in only a handful of the capital’s eateries and in the countryside. A whole roasted guinea pig costs about $20-$25. It has a gamey flavor not unlike rabbit and is usually served with potatoes and corn.

Cuy are so highly prized that a mating pair is considered a valuable wedding present in the countryside.

“When in Rome, do as the Romans.” We have all heard that expression and for most of my travels I have made it a practice to sample the local flavours as much as possible. Snails (escargot) in Paris, snake in Hong Kong, and crawdads in New Orleans, but I could not bring myself to sample cuy while visiting Chuquiribamba a few weeks ago. Just looking at the locals roasting these rat looking creatures was almost enough to make me puke. I was only able to watch long enough to take a picture. From my perspective it was still a rat, or at best a creature used in lab experiments, or as household pets. I therefore declined the invitation to do as the locals and dine on one of the delicacies of Ecuador. I am sure this was my loss but I can live with that decision.

I suppose my western sensitivities came into play. It was for this reason that the Chinese, during the last Summer Olympics, had all vendors banned from displaying cats and dogs from their meat racks near the events. We have become not only a culture of food (animal) sensitivities, but we have also gain consideration for those from different cultures.

The locals laugh when they saw my expression to the cuy and offered me a free sample. As I lifted the gift to my mouth I looked at the guinea pig roasting on the barbecue and remembered my childhood pet, Squeaky. “Never name an animal you may one day have to eat,” my Aunt Baby Sis used to say. She was right. I thanked the bearer of the gift, returned it, and walked away to their laughter at the silly gringo.

*Reference Credit: 11 Things To Know Before Visiting Ecuador