image description June 19, 2013

Bizarre Bites: Cuy

Bizarre Bites: Cuy

A.K.A. Guinea Pig

My son was four years old and just wrapping up another year of preschool when Daddy came to visit the class. I walked in and a little girl began screaming, “Don’t eat Simon! He’s going to eat Simon!!!…AAARRGGGHHH!” Well, I didn’t that time. We keep this teeny little rodent as a pet, but I don’t get it. They make lousy companions (have you ever seen one fetch?!), and despite the mythology that they are good starter pets here in the United States, in the Andes Mountains, they’re called almuerzo. That’s Spanish for “lunch.”

Guinea pig farming dates back to 5000 B.C., and it’s still a very profitable livestock in Peru, Bolivia and some parts of Ecuador and Colombia. Cuy, as they are called in South America, take up little space, reproduce quickly, are high in protein and low in fat and cholesterol. Peruvians are especially found of cuy and eat nearly 65 million of them per year. Guinea pigs provide 50 percent of all animal protein consumed in Peru. I know, I know: It seems really weird to eat a guinea pig. However, all it takes is one piping-hot bite of roasted cuy to realize they’re just as delicious as they are cute and cuddly.

Andrew eating cuy in Peru

Photo Credit: Travel Channel

The Sweet Smell of Guinea Pig

I love a roasted cuy, but you can also find it fried or boiled. It tastes a lot like rabbit–a little richer and gamier than chicken– but with the mouth feel of roasted pork shoulder. Be warned–cuy will leave a sweet and smoky stench on your hands that can be tough to get rid of. The locals call the scent tufo. Don’t wash up too soon. I recommend walking around reeking of tufo– it will give you some serious street cred with the locals.

Guninea pigs popcorning

Illustration by: Chuck Gonzales

Hopping for Health

When guinea pigs get excited they will repeatedly hop in the air. This is called “popcorning.”  What a work out! Guinea pigs have got it right, exercise should be fun and you should do it at least 60 minutes a day.

Here are some fun things you can do for exercise:

  • Pretend you’re a guinea pig and jump around
  • Run around the house as many times as you can
  • Take a bike ride to the park
  • Go swimming and do a bunch of cannon balls
  • Learn how to break dance

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