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Cooking in the Humahuaca valley

sunny 25 °C
View Argentina / Chile 2012 on LutzAndBobo's travel map.

Now today the UNESCO heritage site Humahuaca is on the program.  We were offered a cooking class in conjunction, not much to our delight, but the travel organiser said, it's really worthwhile to learn cooking empanadas.  Having now eaten the sparse variety of pollo, beef, or even vegetable, for many days, we're not less worried as to what the cooking class will be about.

But to our relief, the cooking class is very nice, and the UNESCO site remains a little miracle.

We are greeted by our cook, Mercedes, the owner of a little restaurant in Tilcari, introducing all the local spices, vegetables, and herbs, and how they are been processed, manually, based on indigenous methods, and imported colonialized ways of using them.  The variety is huge, especially on corn, and what one can do with it.  From flour for bread and doughs, to fermentation process which turns it into a liquor of a least 15p alcohol.  But also some sweet juices come out of a redish corn, which tastes like raspberry juice.

After this intro into the ingredients, we are lead to the kitchen, need to prepare onions and tomatoes for the lama stew, and once that cooks, we prepare the empanadas, filled with a mix of quinoa, carrots, cheese, and a preparation of onions in various spices.  It takes some time to get them into the right shape, and everybody is amused about our skills, since only our empanadas will be eaten at lunch with the driver and the guide.  Once everything is prepared and the empanadas are in the oven we stroll through the vegetable garden, viewing quinoa, quince, amaranth, and all the other organic products being grown by her, Mercedes, the cook.

We sit down under the volaire and get served a nice meal, the stew is for some too spicy (Slobodan), for others to little (Martine, the driver), so probably we need to come again.  It was a nice intermezzo, and after a stroll through the village, which is less touristic than San Pedro, we drive further through the valley, towards Humahuaca.

The mountains right and left are very colourful, which is actually the main attraction, but since we're after lunch the light is not gorgeous.  We stop a few times, at the summer turning point at the latitude of xxx degree, a holy spot for the locals, on the 21st, of both months, December and June, and a little village, uquai ... Where we see the local colonial church, and buy small flutes from the locals. They don't want to get fotographed, which we respect, and instead we photograph at the shops the produce from cactuses especially the huge trunks which we'd never be able import to Europe...

Humahuaca isn't far any more, but also not to much of an attraction either.  Some stands in the pebbled (colonial) streets offer nicer flutes, so we buy a third one, and Slobodan owns himself a bag of mañi-mañi, a local herb, which when mixed with mint makes a nice tea, we had tried earlier at lunch.

We look at some more churches, and an official building, in Mauric style, not sure how they ended up here, but we were told there were even Islamic emigrants from Spain, which ended up here in on this remote spot in Argentina.  Namely architects, for the matter of having build this blue coloured dome, which reminds of cordoba/Spain.  Anyway, beyond the colonial quirks we don't see much indigenous, aside from another main attraction which is the monument on a hill, depicting general gümes in his fight against the Spanish forces, by using all farm people and their kettle, which must have been so impressive that the Spanish gave up, and this part of the land became partly sovereign, at least for a little while.

Our guide tries to ensure us that the locals (who decended from the Inca) mixed with the Spanish or other emigrants, but based on the physiognomy on the streets we're not sure how far this went.

I guess the intention of the UNESCO grant is the opposite effect, which is from an ethnological stand point probably right, but it also didn't alter the two tier system, which we could observe between the colonial and local descendants at any hotel, bank or government institution.  There might be equality rights, but the implementation lags behind.

We drive back, the light has changed in the afternoon, with now the other side of the valley being illuminated, lots of photo opportunities again, ...

After a plunge in the pool on our return to the hotel, we head to the centre of the village in search of a recommended vegetarian restaurant, but after strolling over the sandy pavements for a while, asking the locals about it, we realise it's not there anymore, probably because vegetarian customers aren't the most prevalent species here again.

On the main square a local we find a restaurant, which will serve me another Lama dish with Andean potatoes, a mix of local varieties, which Hix serves in London as a delicatesse, and here comes nearly for free. Something to export to Europe?  Probably not, since that type of business wouldn't be aligned with the Unesco charter and principles.

When we leave the place the other restaurants in the village are still empty, so we still don't understand when the people eat here, at least not between 9 and 11, only a few tourists went where we went.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 16:00 Archived in Argentina

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