5.11.2006

more from huanchaco

First, many thanks to reader Fred_R, who says in a comment (which I am unable to link to right now):
If your looking for a great Canadian company selling quinoa, check out www.quinoa.com. 100% Canadian owned and operated and they buy all their product from Peru.
Very cool! I really appreciate it, and I´ll definitely look into it when I´m home.

Allan and I discovered quinoa when we found out that Allan has a gluten sensitivity, or celiac disease. This means he can´t (or at least shouldn´t) eat wheat and many other grains. It´s not an easy diet to follow, although not as restrictive as we first feared, since rice, corn and potatoes are acceptable.

We learned that the ancient grain of quinoa is gluten-free and also high in protein, although I never learned how to make it very tasty. Hence our search for Seeds Of Change brand quinoa mixes, sold in boxes like rice or couscous mixes, and apparently only in Whole Foods. Here in Peru, I´ve seen many other delicious uses and methods of making quinoa.

But here´s the crazy thing. All of a sudden, in Peru, wheat products are no longer bothering Allan´s GI system. He is also lactose intolerant, which often goes with celiac disease, and suddenly he is digesting dairy without problems, too. At home, we almost never eat pizza, the ulitmate double whammy to a gluten and lactose intolerant person. Yet here, we´ve eaten many delicious pizzas, with no ill effects.

It´s amazing, and we don´t understand it. My only theory is that food is much less processed here, much closer to its natural state, raised organically not for health purposes but because agriculture here is less "advanced" (ahem). My former doctor in NYC told me that many foods in North America are "gluten enhanced" in processing, causing many more people to develop celiac disease or at least a gluten sensitivity. Could it be that the Peruano natural growing and production methods alleviate the effects of dairy and wheat? If anyone has an idea, please feel free to weigh in.

We are baffled, but it is great! Since we can´t drink the water here and have to be careful about food safety in general, it´s wonderful for Allan to be able to eat whatever he wants without wondering about those problems, too.

* * * *

One food that Peru does well is soup. It is everywhere, and lots of it. There are cremas (cream soups), chaufes (chowders), sopa a la minuta (a noodle soup) and all types of whatever-we-had-handy soups, all delicious. The staples here are pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken), potatoes of all description, and soup.

* * * *

Lonely Planet is the standard guidebook for travel in Peru right now. And while it´s full of good tips about bringing sunscreen, earplugs (for bus and train travel with DVDs blasting) and toilet paper (paper products of all types are scarce here), here´s an important tip you won´t find in the guidebook.

Everything is paid in cash here, no credit cards, no traveler´s cheques. But there is at least one ATM in every town, all on the international systems, so you can withdraw cash as you go. However, all the ATMs dispense only 50 and 100 soles bills - and no one will accept them. No one.

Even 20 sole bills are difficult to use if you need anything more than 2 soles in change. At lunch yesterday, our waiter ran to three different stores trying to get change for a 10 soles bill! (We finally waved him back and scrounged all our change and gave him a big tip to make up the difference.)

We learned this early on and developed a workaround routine. First, withdraw cash from an ATM, but only on a weekday during banking hours. Second, go into the bank, get a numbered ticket, then wait, sitting in chairs in a large waiting area, for your number to come up on a tote board. Then, change the 100 and 50 sole bills into 20s and 10s, and also try to get some moneda (change), 5, 2 and 1 sole coins, even 50-centimo coins.

It´s the craziest thing. We have tried every combination of withdrawal, nothing works - even if you withdraw 100 soles, the machine will dispense one 100 bill. But no one will accept them. The only thing you can use a 100-sole bill for is your hotel bill, if it´s over 85 or 90 soles. You´re lucky if you can get anyone to take a 20 sole bill. You need a pocket or pouch full of coins all the time, but good luck getting them.

The ATMs also dispense US dollars. Eeeyuck.

4 comments:

James said...

At home, we almost never eat pizza, the ulitmate double whammy to a gluten and lactose intolerant person. Yet here, we´ve eaten many delicious pizzas, with no ill effects.

You may be pleased, then, to hear that the Il Fornello chain of Italian restaurants in Toronto all have serve gluten-free pizza -- and very good, too. There's one right over Sei Sushi (the place opposite Roy Thomson Hall, with the little garden inside)

L-girl said...

Whoo-hoo! Good news indeed. Rice dough, perhaps? I wonder how they make it crispy. We´ll find out.

mkk said...

I can't remember the name of the Magic Medicine that you and Allan took (or are still taking) to prevent GI problems when traveling. Could that be the reason that Allan is now able to digest dairy and gluten?

Your travel blogs are great! I am enjoying them immensely!

L-girl said...

Thanks, Marcie! I´m really enjoying writing this travel journal.

Dukoral, the oral vaccine we took (it´s two dosages, the second one taken two weeks before travel), is only supposed to protect against E Coli related illnesses, like traveler´s diarrhea or cholera. So that shouldn´t be it. But if it were... wow, that would be an amazing side benefit.

We´re both very curious to see what will happen when we return, GI-wise.