I owned a lot of pets as a child: dogs, cats, even a rat, but never a guinea pig. My seventh grade science teacher on the other hand had three of the furry little creatures in her classroom and if we finished our work early we were allowed to play with them for a few minutes before the bell rang. They were cute, they were soft, and they made adorable little squeaking sounds. Never did I suspect that these American household pets were considered tasty cuisine in some parts of the world. Never, that is, until I moved to Ecuador.
Apparently guinea pig, or cuy as it’s known here, has been chowed upon since pre-Incan times in Andean nations. Over the years these little rodents have been used as a royal food staple, a source of protein for armies on the move, and even medicinally. Today, they can be found in many restaurants (though they’ll cost much more than an order of chicken) and at important events.
My first encounter with an actual fried guinea pig came at the luncheon following the Confirmation of a friend’s daughter. After lunch was served several cuy were cooked up, and along with a basket of boiled potatoes, given to the godparents as a gift.
As it turned out there was extra cuy and our family was offered a sample. I am a pescatarian, so I typically pass on meat, though I have made exceptions when I have the chance to sample an insect or if I felt that I would offend our hosts by not accepting. Luckily, that wasn’t the case here and I passed on the snack, but David and the boys all dug in.
Final verdict? TASTY!
I’ll have to take their word on that, but if you ever find yourself in South America and want to try something new, try out a cuy and be sure to tell your friends!