Friday 11 June 2010

The Great Guinea Pig Adventure!

Now this post may offend a few people, and I might get beaten up or my house petrol bombed by Greenpeace, but it was all for the love of my art!
Anyhow, a few months ago I visited Ecuador with my Misses (shes from there), and when her Dad found out that I was a chef, he was eager to introduce me to Ecuador's National dish, the food of Ecuador is not up to much, and to be honest, neither is its national dish, well texture and flavour wise anyhow, so what is Ecuador's national dish..... Guinea Pig!!!!!!!!!!
So we visited a market one morning, in the capital, Quito, the markets in Ecuador are amazing, each stall, well I stay stall, more of a blanket on the ground, sells more or less the same fruit and vegetables, as the produce is all organic and is local and harvested from the nearby jungle or mountain! On sale are allot of beans, corn, onions, tomatoes and loads of fruit, papaya, melon, pineapple, etc, etc.
As we delve deeper into the market, through the hustle and bustle, I hear a cute squeaking sound, it gets louder and louder, and then suddenly I spot a fat old ladie with rotten teeth, with a large basket on the ground next to here, my misses dad and the old ladie exchange words, then he gives here a $5 note, she gives him an evil look and mumbles under her breath, he never pays the going rate for anything! Then she pulls the cloth covering her basket to one side, then hands him a live, cute, cuddly Guinea Pig! Then another! He slips them into a yellow sack, then grins, and we follow him back to his car, the yellow sack gets slung into the boot, then we all jump in the car and drive home!
when we arrive home, he gets the yellow sack from the boot of his car and we all follow him into the kitchen, where he unties the sack, and grabs a guinea pig by the scruff of its neck, by this time I am feeling a bit uneasy, as I have seen a few animals killed, a few fish whilst on a sea fishing trip, and the odd chicken, but not an animal that my little sisters used to keep as pets!
So to the slaughter...I found this a bit cruel, but I was in another country and this way of killing an animal has been performed for 100's, probably 1000's of years in Ecuador, which doesn't make it right but it is part of there culture and I am sure that there are things that an Ecuadorian would disagree with if he came to England, like flying food in from all over the world or the amount of fast food restaurants about, binge drinking, etc! I'm trying to put things into perspective.
So the head of the animal is held between the palms of both hands, then squeezed so the teeth crush its brain, it seems to die instantly, then the next guinea pig is killed the same way.
the next step is to blanch the animal in boiling water, then pluck its fur, again, this made me feel a bit uneasy, then the animal is gutted, washed under cold water and rubbed with a mixture of chopped garlic, salt and pepper, then it is put on a spit and grilled over charcoal for an hour or so.
The proof is in the eating......So I take my seat at the table, the rest of the family are really excited about eating guinea pig, it is a real treat for them, they only eat it once a year on really special occasionns apparently.
So I am first up, I am handed a small plate, with a whole guinea pig on it, legs hanging over the side of the plate, it looks like a small suckling pig! So I take my first mouthfull, well quatre of a mouthfull, with the whole family looking at me, mmmmm, I say, this is really nice, everybody looks relieved, and they all dig in themselves.
If I'm honest, it was a great experience, I will try anything once, but there isn't really that much meat on a guinea pig, thankfully, and it kind of tasted like bland chicken (don't so many things), it just didn't feel right eating a childs pet!

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