While we were researching Ecuador as a potential place to relocate, one of the customs that surprised us was that they ate Guinea pigs!
In Canada we had only ever seen Guinea pigs , being sold in pet stores, so we had never thought about eating them.
As we became serious about moving to Ecuador, more specifically Cuenca (a city in the Andes mountains) we started to dig a little deeper into the local customs. We found out that Guinea pig (“Cuy” in Spanish) is served on important occasions and as a meal for special guests. It’s among the more expensive dishes.
At first our daughter was not sure if she would like to try cuy, but once she understood that rejecting a local delicacy could cause disappointment and offense, she began to think differently about eating it.
We also helped her reason on it by looking at and talking about how cute chickens, cows and pigs are. It didn’t bother her in the least to eat them (we are big meat eaters) and how her feeling about them changed once they were all prepared on her plate.
Talking about eating Guinea pig meat as if it were the same as eating chicken or cow meat helped Drew understand how customs help shape peoples everyday reality. In some parts of the world eating beef is unheard of, and in other parts of the world they eat dog and horse meat (including some places here in Ecuador). It’s all about how things are perceived as a person is growing up.
One of our favorite meals in Canada is lobster (and fish and chips). Years ago lobster was viewed as food that only poor people ate, and some people were embarrassed to be seen eating it. Now the view is the is just the opposite. Perception is a funny thing.
Getting Prepared to Eat Cuy
Looking up pictures on the internet helped as well. We hoped that if she saw pictures of Guinea pigs for sale at markets and being sold cooked and prepared on the street, she would be more prepared when she saw the real thing. Turns out we were right.
When we arrived and saw the cuy being sold on the street for the first time, Drew just said “oh look, they’re selling the Guinea pigs!” It was not that big of a deal to her.
The Day Arrives
We were soon invited over to a friends house and guess what they served us? Cuy! We knew what they were serving before we arrived, so we were all kind of looking forward to it. Our hostess cut them up and baked them in the oven. A friend that came with us said that she had eaten cuy a few different ways, but baked was definitely her favorite.
The meat was sweet and greasy, very much like duck meat. The cuy was served with rice, potatoes, avocado, choclo (corn) and cheese.
We Did It!
It may sound funny, but I’m proud of our family for being adventurous and eating cuy. I liked the flavor of the cuy, and the rest of the meal was delicious! Some people find the head especially delicious. The little feet or paws are also a treat for some, they just pop them in whole and crunch them up.
Now when we meet new Ecuadorian friends they will often joke around about having us over for cuy. It seems they don’t think foreigners will eat it, but then when we say that “we had it and liked it!” they are kind of impressed.
I’ve only met a few people that said they didn’t like cuy. So if you are planing a trip to Ecuador, you may want to try eating Guinea pig as well.
Have you already tried it? Let us know by sharing your comments on this post.