Peruvians love their food. They are proud of their gastronomy with a force that I have not seen matched in any other culture or country (maybe the Italians?). And, frankly, with a history of 1000s of years of ancient cultures taking advantage of the hundreds of microclimates that the country has to offer, who can blame them? They know what they are doing in the fields. They know what they are doing in the kitchen. They invented cebiche, they conceived pisco, no one is going to argue that their potatoes aren’t the best in the world, and their produce is so diverse and bountiful yearlong that all of South America benefits from their fruit and veg. Furthermore, between the jungle, the coast, and the highlands, everyone has added their own delicious, regional contributions to what is quickly becoming the world’s favorite cuisine.
As Peru’s gastronomy has gained increasing international attention and recognition as utterly badass, Peruvians have continued to create events to recognize their total mastery of all thing culinary. The most significant of these events started in 2008 when Peru began celebrating and recognizing their culinary excellence through La Mistura. Organized by la Asociación Peruana de Gastronomía (APEGA), or the Peruvian Association of Gastronomy, La Mistura has quickly become the largest gastronomical event in the Americas, and one hell of a cultural tradition. Every year people from all over flock to Lima, Peru to take part in Mistura.
What is La Mistura?
Let me do my best to break this down for you. To be honest, I didn’t really understand what I was paying for until I showed up. Because, to be honest, no one is as nuts about their food as the Peruvians, and the whole concept behind Mistura was pretty much impossible me to grasp until I was physically present. Basically, La Mistura is a massive, several day long depot that boasts every Peruvian and Peruvian-fusion cuisine known to mankind. In fact, for a gringa with a small stomach, it was a little overwhelming.
Here’s what you should expect (and save up for!):
First, you have to buy “la entrada” or the entrance ticket. There are designated areas around Lima where you can purchase and pick up your tickets. Get the entrada in advance! Mistura has consistently sold out every year since its inauguration. It is 25 soles, and it is just to get you through the gate. For a group of us, we sent one friend to wait in line and get the ticket. Needless to say, she ended up being late to work that day…
Then you have to purchase “tickets” which are used for purchasing dishes. Most places, outside of sandwich shops and choclo stands (please see sandwich shops) offer a half portion or a full portion. Full portions are thirteen soles and half portions are seven soles. For Peru, that isn’t cheap. Actually, all of La Mistura is extremely expensive…
As I said, la entrada gets you nothing other than access. Then you are going to over purchase tickets for buying dishes, because all of the lines
are insane and you are not going to want to have to wait in any line twice. Then you have to wait in line for all of the good stuff for as long as an hour. Things like chanco (please see images above) and Peru’s famous cebiche and leche de tigre (basically fish juice, which is way more amazing than it sounds, I promise) can cost you hours of your time. My friend’s boyfriend was actually able to bribe someone in the chancho line, which was literally two hours long, with a can of beer. I love Peru…
So this is how a day at Mistura goes:
1) Show up.
2) Buy tickets.
3) Wait in line.
4) Buy a dish.
5) Eat previously purchased dish while waiting in line for next dish.
La Mistura is an awesome cultural experience, don’t get me wrong, but would I do it again?
Yes. Under one circumstance: I was going as a couple. La Mistura is perfect for couples or pairs of friends. The more people that you are splitting dishes with, the more that you are going to get to try. And that’s really the whole point of this event: Come. Eat. Give props to Peru for knowing what they are doing in the kitchen. Go home weighing 10 pounds more than when you work up that morning. The end.