Everyone I’ve met so far has been polite and really tiny. In a land filled with glaciers, mountains and deserts, resources must’ve been scarce. And when food is scarce, nature favors biological systems that need less to survive. People my size would’ve been a walking famine to a village on the edge of starvation (gigantic condolences in advance for the surging mortality rate).
Unable to sleep, I walk around the block. Most of the concrete residences have serious looking electric fences on top of even more serious walls. I pass a park named after President F.D.R. This neighborhood is like Greenwich Village in NYC, but with much faster traffic. The road I’m on is named Los Conquistadors (cowboys and Indians here is conquistadors and Indians). Stores sell tiny clothing for bebes and ninos. I pass some transitos giving parking tickets, and a Starbucks with valet parking. Finally getting tired, I call it a night.
The next morning Expoalimentaria starts. My sleep schedule is still off so I grab a taxi to the show (having missed the earlier shuttle). During the ride we pass a lot of female police on large, white motorcycles. Their helmets and jackets look just like the ones U.S. cops wear. Though the tight, tan pants seem more appropriate for English horseback riders. The women in general are tiny, packing and on dual sports bikes. They can follow your ass anywhere! With rampant police corruption in Latin America, Peru’s solution was to hire lots of ladies. Females are perceived as being more virtuous. Like Fox Mulder from the X-Files, I want to believe. But I’ve walked by a 50% off shoe sale (aka riot). Women are the more dangerous gender. And Heaven’s Angels are now armed and mobile. #Locked&LoadedInStylishShoes.
The International Power of Quinoa
We arrive at the exhibition. Three tall, bare palm trees are the backdrop to a row of international flags. Their 6-foot tall poles are stuck into a long, wooden beam laying on the ground. I check in to the show and meet the translator provided by the Peruvian government, a young college student named Maya. She is tan, professional, speaks excellent English, and in 6-inch heels would headbutt my elbow. This is not a criticism of her height, but rather of my freakishly inappropriate size. As we enter the hall I’m struck by how the salon looks normal. Well, except for the 3 foot gap between the walls and ceiling. The building is more like a permanent tent open to the elements year-round. The large gaps create a window frame to the outside.
Construction is still happening at noon on the first day of the show. As exhibitions go Expoalimentaria isn’t large. And Maya is the epitome of professionalism. But how many Quinoa and anti-oxidant powders can one see (which we don’t import). A few of the meetings have potential, in particular the roasted and salted Sacha Inchi seeds. Also known as the Incan peanut, they’re green, alien looking pods with a five-sided shape reminiscent of star anise. But each seed is the size and color of a marcona almond. Their flavor has a unique, fatty tang to it reminiscent of fish oil. Maybe that is due to all the Omega 3 antioxidants packed into a Sacha Inchi.
The superstar of the show, though, is Quinoa. Google it and you get sites raving that it is a complete
source of proteins (or as one site put it one of the “30 Best Proteins for Your Penis.”) This flowering plant produces edible seeds called Quecha by the Incans. Like a carrot, each seed has a bitter, astringent coating which needs to be removed. This layer was also the secret ingredient in Incan detergent for thousands of years. And being in Peru, this hardy plant thrives in temperatures from 24°F to 95°F