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Organ Grind: A South American Food Journal Part 3, Cock Soup at 11,000 Ft

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Cusco’s Central Market

Large, central markets situated in cities with lax or non-existent health codes always make a strong impression upon the senses of smell and sight, and, if you’re  somewhat brave, taste.  Peru boasts many markets and most I’ve frequented are loose affairs; no one blinks an eye at seeing a cadre of beige mutts wrestling over a butcher’s offal down one aisle, and the strongest reaction you’re likely to notice from a person having just witnessed the al fresco execution and summary evisceration of a loudly protesting hog is a half-curious glance and a shrug.

Cusco is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Americas and it shows; various cultural strata exist side-by-side in a hallucinatory jumble whose dizzying quality is heightened by the lung-deflating altitude.  Its Mercado Central de San Pedro is a pot boiling over with a wide variety of ingredients, both wearable and digestible. Rows and rows of women hawking colorful fabrics bleed into long counters serving five sol (about 2 dollars) meals like Sopa de Gallina (chicken soup) and Caldo de Lengua (beef tongue stew); a woman idly parting a trussed-up pig from its nutsack rubs shoulders with one offering fresh fruit smoothies with a bright smile and cheerful salutation.

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Nice Soup Lady

While I’m known among family and friends as something of a masochist when it comes to eating weird shit, my friend and I invariably chose to break our fast with the simple and classic chicken soup.  It gets brownie points for freshness, too; the bird pecking at a stray bit of celery at your feet is likely in rotation for tomorrows pot. Behind the venerable matron briskly quartering luminous plucked fowl is a large cauldron of stock began the day before.

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Typically varied list of soups

Other animal parts available in soups are tongue, stomach and head, if you find the noble and hearty chicken soup too quotidian.  In addition to a cheap and quick meal, you can also enjoy the sensation of being a pioneer on uncharted waters; my friend and I were often the only gringos eating at these market lunch counters.  And, when the novelty wears off or you get tired of the stench of your own self-satisfaction, they´re just comfortable spots to rest and partake of simple, unpretentious nutrition.

Mercado Central de San Pedro
Cusco, Peru

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Fatt Mink

Fatt Mink

I was born into a family of bookworms and staunch pinkos in downtown San Jose, California.
I lived in San Francisco from 2002-2016, during which time I studied music and Italian at S.F State and worked as a waiter and bartender in restaurants and bars both foul and divine; I credit my considerable experience in the industry with birthing my eternal burnin' love for food and booze, still a driving force in my life. I lived in Rome for 8 months in 2016 and then moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, where I currently write for a newspaper and play music.