Jay — Hello from Peru! Forgive me for disappearing for a little bit — I’m a bioarchaeologist (someone who analyzes bones from archaeological contexts), and there have been too many unexcavated bodies that I had to attend to! First thing’s first: I can tell you that it’s not impossible to eat in a healthy way here, but I’ve definitely had to make an effort to eat in a nutritious way. If you go out to a restaurant or to someone's home, almost every meal you are served here is potatoes, rice, and meat. Although it’s very filling and often delicious, there isn’t much that's green. I really, really miss spinach. I've got to admit though, that in the land of over 2000 varieties of potatoes, people are amazingly creative at cooking them.
There's a lot that I do appreciate about Peruvian food, though, especially the freshness of so many of the ingredients. While we do have typical grocery stores, many people go to the local markets (think farmer’s market but more run-down — literally thousands of people go through each day!) and buy their produce that is delivered directly from the field. My favorite part of going shopping in the markets is that you can approach a vendor and ask them, “where are these pineapples from?” and they can tell you the location of the field and the farmer’s name. It makes me feel more inspired to use this fresh produce when I’m cooking at home. Furthermore, when I know that I’m eating foods that are the result of someone’s time and dedication, I appreciate what I’m eating more fully.
Even though the way Peruvians shop may be unrealistic for most Americans, I appreciate that they go to their local bodega to buy exactly what they need for whichever dish they are preparing. This means that they only cook as much as they need, and there is focus both on avoiding waste and consideration for portions. This has been striking for me to see, since portion control was my biggest problem when it came to redefining my relationship with food.
When it comes to cooking at home, I’m definitely not perfect. I try to prepare my own meals as much as I can, but damn — Peruvian food is just so delicious, and my usual healthy vegetables and go-to snacks (hummus and baby carrots) aren’t available here. So I’ll be straight up with you all — I’ve gained 10 pounds over the past year while I’ve been here.
Although my weight has changed, I haven’t let this define me. My experience here has been amazing, and my healthy foods and routine await me when I get back to the States next month. The important thing is that I don’t let my evil twin take over. I refuse to enter that self-critical internal dialogue any more. Rather, I know that this is temporary — I can get back on track; I have the tools, and just because one aspect of my body changed it does not mean that it is not deserving of kindness, no matter how many potatoes (or lomo saltado) I eat!