Last December, while Nathan and I were busy freestyling with dissident MCs, beating back rancid crab, and taking in Hillary Clinton’s trip to Burma, our on-again, off-again intern Chad released a series of dispatches about the next potential Roads and Kingdoms destination. The list was long and loaded with potential: Venezuela, Egypt, anywhere else with food and fucked-up politics.
So why did Peru win out? Because there are incredible things to eat here, from raw fish dishes that strike fear in the heart of Japanese sushi chefs to street meat that can challenge the best of the sweaty Southeast Asian capitals. Because the jungle is filled with shamans who administer hallucinogenic flora to open the doors of perception for local believers and world-weary journeymen. Because few countries can rival Peru’s muscular convergence of mountain, ocean, and jungle. And because Peru represents one of those Goldilocks destinations—not so hot you are incinerated by it, not so cold you have to search hard for excitement. All of these elements make it ideal for the Roads and Kingdoms treatment.
For the next eight days, we’ll be just below the equator, reporting what we hope is a good mix of food/culture/war/death/rebirth. We’ll be in the slum of Villa El Salvador to track the life, murder, and legacy of the Angela Davis of Peru, Maria Elena Moyano. We’ll be spending time with Virgilio Martinez Veliz, one of the young chefs responsible for the sudden blitz of Peruvian food coverage in the US media. He’ll be showing us what makes this cuisine the greatest in South America, from refined ceviches and tiraditos to creamy causas and killer cocktails. It’s not all raw fish and roast chicken, though; Peruvians know a thing or two about edible oddities, as well, and we’ll be poking around in the mountains, in the jungle, and the far reaches of Lima in search of the best fried guinea pig, the tastiest skewers of grilled lungs and liver, and the least morally-challenging cat (yes, that’s right, cat).
While I’m stuffing my face, Nathan will be on a strict diet of river fish and rice, preparation for his journey into the Amazon to work with one of Peruvian’s ayahuasca healers.
I’m not going to be there to hold Nathan’s hair back as he pukes out the poison, though. I’ll be breaking south to Cuzco, to the upper Andes, where the world’s attention has been fixed ever since Machu Picchu was named the Seventh Wonder of the World back in 2007. It’s a distinction Peruvians are understandably proud of, but it carries with it more than a few side nebulous effects that may well jeopardize the preservation of one of the world’s most fascinating—and eye-poppingly gorgeous—ancient civilizations. The world around Machu Picchu is changing quickly and we want to be there to see it in its moment of change.
Follow us this week and next on the site, as well as on our homes on Tumblr and Twitter, as we show you some new sides to Peru. We’ll offer updates and quick hits, snapshots and dispatches as time and connectivity allow, then we’ll circle back and polish the best of our photos, videos and ramblings into a comprehensive series on the state of food, tourism, and jungle in Peru.