I’d like to say this story has a moral—that the dizzying calorie count has some type of deeper meaning that might lighten the souls, if not the bellies, of those brave enough to breach this gasping mountain with anxious tines. But it really doesn’t. This is no tale of good and evil, of aching history, of cultural transformation. This is just exposed flesh, the gratuitous sex scene sandwiched in between the gut-wrenching violence of every slasher flick. Something to get the blood flowing.
The gorgeous heap before you is called causa, or sometimes causa limeña, in a nod to the dish’s popularity in the Peruvian capital. Unlike Peru’s most famous dish, ceviche, there is nothing vaguely light or refreshing about this tower of power. Causa comes in an impressive number of iterations served up at a vast ecosystem of high-end restaurants, market stalls, and surf shacks, but the thread that holds them all together is three-fold: mashed potatoes, avocado, and mayonnaise—a triple-cream explosion of monotextural extremity.
Within those generous parameters, of course, there is plenty of room for personalization. Peruvian cooks treat causas the same way short-order cooks at Waffle House treat hash browns: scattered (with herbs, onions, chilies), smothered (in salsa de ají, key lime juice, mountain cheese), covered (in octopus tentacles, baby shrimp, shredded duck), and topped (with olives, hard-boiled eggs, raw peppers).
We were shooting video when this tower came together. As Vicente Furgiuele, the fast-talking Peruvian-Argentine owner and cook at Canta Ranita in El Capullo market in Barranco, went about forming those yellow-fleshed potatoes into hockey pucks, spiking the mayo with lime juice, layering the snapper nuggets (coated in oyster sauce before frying—a nod to the deep Asian influence on Lima’s cuisine), building that causa ever higher, Nathan and I had to cover our mouths to stifle the tide of laughter evoked by this incredible display of excess.
Of course, when beers were poured and forks placed before us, the plate was scraped to within an inch of its life. Moral or not, Roads and Kingdoms is down for the causa.