Cooking and eating at home in Peru has been quite different than back home in the States.
For starters, we cook for just the two of us, instead of a family of 4+. We have to watch how much we make, because my husband is a firm believer in eating everything instead of just throwing it away. If we make it, we eat it. And of course on the rare occasion when we put leftovers in the fridge, we always forget to check there before deciding what to eat the next day, so sometimes those get thrown out.
Secondly, we try to make a mix of Peruvian staples + American staples. This includes fried plantains, rice, anything with potatoes, spaghetti, chili, chicken noodle soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Those might not sound like “staples” in either country, but they are what we consider staples. We don’t really experiment outside of these cuisines, because he doesn’t like spicy foods, and I don’t like it when dinner takes 3+ hours to make (unless I turn on the crockpot in the mornings!) Although, I am itching to learn some traditional Peruvian dishes!
It’s not as easy to cook here. Ok, so it’s not that it isn’t easy, per se, it just isn’t as convenient as back home. We have a sauce pan, a small pot, and a medium pot, and we’re constantly washing them because we re-use them sometimes twice to make one meal. The oven is reallllly slow at baking, and we don’t have a broiler. The one time I tried baking chicken breasts, they were still pink after 30 minutes. Sometimes our gas stovetop gets too hot from overuse, and it cooks our food too fast. (think: burnt sautéed onions) If I want to prep ingredients for a crockpot meal, I have to do it right before cooking, because there isn’t room in our tiny fridge to store a crockpot overnight. Lots of the recipes I like from back home use ingredients that can’t be found here (soups, seasonings, beans w/ peppers, etc.) We don’t have a blender, hand mixer, or big cutting board, which are readily available at home and I used to use frequently. Even my cookie recipes always turn out crappy, whether from the ingredients or the oven, I’m not sure!
We like keeping things simple. Some of our favorite meals involve rice, avocado, fried eggs, sliced tomato, fried plantains, salad, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes. The ingredients are super simple, but we jazz things up with garlic, Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, lime, and other seasonings I brought from the States.
The grocery stores here are not like the ones at home. Usually back home, already-cooked beans are $1-2. Here they’re the equivalent of $4-5. Cream cheese is nearly $5…and carrot cake doesn’t taste the same without it. Bacon is never on sale, and 6 slices cost us $3.50. Tortillas are about $3 and it’s a random brand I’ve never tried. I realize the prices shouldn’t deter me from using the ingredients I know (and love) to make dishes, and that’s where my next point comes in…
We’re on a budget and try not to go overboard on price of ingredients. Because we only cook for 2 and we don’t get too complicated in the kitchen, it’s somewhat easy to stick to a grocery budget. Noodles are on sale every other week, so we buy them then. Rice is affordable, and it goes with every meal. We found the perfect little veggie/fruit market, and the prices there are insane. What we usually spend the most on is meat- ground beef or chicken breasts, oil (olive or vegetable), Hunt’s BBQ sauce, and bottled water. And then there are the times I want to get creative and buy lots of things to try, but then realize we’re on a budget and I need to stick with the basics!
Although things are a little different here in Peru, I still love being in the (tiny) kitchen and helping make yummy food with my husband. I’m still adjusting to cooking and baking and food shopping on a tight budget here, and although I might complain a bit, I’m enjoying the learning curve!
Here are just a few of the many delicious things we’ve cooked up the past few months!