What the hell did I eat?

Yes, that is right. Prepare yourself for what I am going say.

Cuy al grill
Guinea pigs on a grill photo by Maria Jose Almeida

People often ask themselves the question: would I eat this ______? Many are daring when trying new things and some get disgusted just even thinking about it.

A good example is guinea pig or cuy, a tailless rodent that can be found in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Yes, you guessed again, I am one of those people who has eaten a guinea pig.

I was born in Quito, the capital of Ecuador and growing up there allowed me to go to places where you can eat grilled guinea pig. The neighborhood where they serve this dish is called Selva Alegre. Located in the valley of  Los Chillos, in the outskirts of Quito. To be fair, to the guinea pig and me, it did taste like chicken. It was unusual to eat an animal that can be your pet but tastes delicious on the grill.

You see, before Spain conquered the region and brought cattle with them, the Incas and other tribes ate guinea pig as their primary source of protein. Back then, the number of guinea pigs you had, was considered a sign of wealth.

Suri Larvas on a stick (Suri Food Peru photo by Lydia Brunsting)

Take it from me, since I was born and raised in Ecuador, I have a say when it comes to eating guinea pig. At first, it was weird for me too. It was like eating a Suri, a larva that comes from the roots of an Aguaje tree in the Amazon. In my travels to the Amazon, I encountered this dish at a local market in the town of Coca.  The locals put the larvae on a stick and cook them on a grill.  The taste was peculiar, it tasted like scrambled eggs with a little bit of salt.

Do I recommend this kind of food? Only to the people who are brave and curious enough. It is part of the excitement of traveling, but it is not necessary to try it. However, if you are one of those individuals who likes adventures, go ahead, life is short.


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