ETL Friday! ETL…in the Jungle?

Talk about determination! This week, Sara explores Peru and gives us a look at how to do it Eating To Live style … Where there’s a will, there’s a way. So, do take it away, Sara 🙂

Eating Well in Peru (as a vegan) Part I

Iquitos, Peru: an isolated jungle city. The only way out is on a plane, via the Amazon River, or through the jungle. This makes it unusually safe (if you commit a crime, where are you going to run to that they can’t block off?), but it also means everything is imported. Beautiful and warm, but it’s also humid, sticky, and impoverished in parts.

First thing on the agenda: Look for mangos. Should be cheap and easy, right? Nope. Summer for me is mango season… in Mexico. In Peru, it’s winter, and the only mangos I could find were older and not so great. I found nicer ones in the US! “Tenemos manzanas!” the fruit stand seller would proudly tell me. They had apples. Tsk, tsk, I shook my head in disappointment. I love local, home-grown apples. But I did not go to Peru to feast on mere apples! Eventually I was able to stay content with oranges; grapes; melons; passion fruits; and the illustrious and exotic “cherimoyas,” or custard apple. Not available everywhere, but soooooo good. And the price was a million times cheaper than at home. I ate meals of them.

Next stop: Meal-time! Fruit is nice, but a woman craves something more meal-like and savory after awhile. What was I able to come up with?
A few restaurants, catering to tourists, had vegetarian burgers or even tofu–but cooked with plenty of oil and salt, and offered with white bread. Peruvian Chinese is also big all over the country, and you can find stir-fried noodle dishes. Hmm, white flour, salt, oil, minute amounts of veggies. Nope, would rather do a fruit meal. Instead, I found I was able to make a meal out of salads with lettuce, tomato, avocado, palm hearts, and other miscellaneous veggies, plus a smoothie on the side (no milk, no sugar added, por favor). And unlike Mexico, they don’t sprinkle cheese over everything! Nope, you have to pay for cheese if you want it. This vegan was very happy.

Next challenge: can I make a meal for myself with limited hostel kitchen access and whatever I find at the market or store? We start at the market: chicken hearts, livers, intestines and everything else are put on display. But then! Fruits! Veggies! Palm hearts!!! It was very exciting — ditto for the store. I would eat the veggies raw, in slices. The joy of eating simply! But gradually the excitement started to fade. It started to set in–the imported veggies, for the most part, looked like something from the back of my fridge. Rotted. The last few days I was sick to death of half-rotten veggies and finally succumbed to some vegan “health food” junk I found–bars and cookies made with amaranth, quinoa, maca, sesame. Not the worst, but not so healthy, either. Also tried sancha inchi, an omega-3 rich bean (it seemed), and spit it out–it had been cooked and the oils tasted rancid. My skin started to erupt from the junk, and my digestion wasn’t as squeaky clean as normal…it was easy enough to be vegan, but I needed some sustenance. Luckily, by this point we were about leave, off to Cusco in the Andes Mountains, a completely different climate.


I don’t know that I could do so well! Seriously inspiring. It can be done, even in so remote locations. Forget the tv show, this is true life “Survivor” 😀

Part II, next week —  Tune in!  🙂

Strix (daydreaming of meals of miles and miles of cherimoyas…)

sm row smiles



  1. Argent said,

    February 6, 2009 at 5:48 am

    Wow, Sara — That’s determination! How long were you in Iquitos?

    Looking forward to the next installment. 🙂

  2. poxacuatl said,

    February 6, 2009 at 10:54 am


    I have an interest in entomophagy (learning about it!!) and wonder if you encountered it on this trip.
    I’ve been meaning to ask our Doc about it!

  3. Sara said,

    February 6, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Just under two weeks, I was there. Not sure about the insects, but I have a strong culturally induced aversion 🙂 There are some indigenous groups, maybe they do, but I didn’t see the city folks eating insects. Alligator, beef, chicken, etc, yes. And all sorts of parts.

  4. poxacuatl said,

    February 6, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    Me too, and not just because I’m a staunch vegan!

    Did you see any fresh acai? That would have been awesome to try it fresh! Can’t get it here, but frozen.

  5. February 10, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Oh, it’s really wonderful to live vicariously through others’ tales. Looking forward to the next installment! P.O.P.

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