In this part of the world, we tend to think of Guniea pigs as pets. Every time I hear the word “cuy”, Spanish for Guinea pig, my mind tends to make an association with my pet chinchillas rather than my dinner. Quwi, as they are referred to in Quechua, one of the main indigenous languages of the Andean region, were actually domesticated circa 5000 BC as a food source in the regions of present day Peru, Bolivia, the sierra region of Ecuador, and southern Colombia. They were only introduced to the world as pets in the late 1500s when Spanish and English settlers brought them back to Europe to give to the wealthy as an exotic pet. Even Queen Elizabeth I owned a pet guinea pig! Cuy are a relatively easy food source for a family to raise. They require minimal space and are often fed vegetable scraps left over from the day’s meals. Perhaps the guinea pig would be the solution to some of the world’s hunger and food problems given the current concern over the effects that larger animals such as cattle have on the environment. A family with a small living space could raise their own cuy as a food source. It would just be a matter of reversing the mind set of viewing them solely as pets.
Guinea pigs are not only part of the gastronomical culture of Ecuador. Cuy are also used in a spiritual healing ceremony performed by Ecuadorian shaman. The Guinea pig is rubbed on the patient from head to toe and so that it cam absorb negative, toxic energy from the body. Many of those who have partaken in this ritual report having been cured from stress, anxiousness and illness by this ritual.
Though I’m not the “adventurous” type when it comes to trying new foods when I travel, I do feel that a food that is so deeply rooted in the culture of the people in the Andean region is a must do if one is passing through.
Have you tried Guinea Pig? Does it taste like pork as the name suggests or does it taste like chicken? If From what I have read, the meat is most comparable to that of rabbit or the dark meat of a chicken. For those of you who have not tried it, would you?