In 2001, I was a newcomer in Děčín a cozy little town situated 120km north of Prague. My 15 month old Son and I were acclimatising to the autum Czech weather having moved from Costa Rica !
I was determined to impress my Czech family, so I decided (even though then I didn’t speak a word of Czech) to go shopping for ingredients to make a Peruvian dish like „papita a la huancaina“ or „lomito saltado“.
I walked crossed Masarik square (almost every big square in Czech called Masarik) passing a couple of tiny streets when I saw a little shop without a sign but displaying around 10 to 15 guinea pigs in the shop window. I couldn’t believe my luck! This was the sign I was waiting for – Destiny - I will cook „Guinea pig a la Huachana“ made with the secret family recipe of Aunty Emma from Huacho province......
Marvellous, I said to myself and delightedly walked in to the shop to order a couple of guinea pigs. Clearly the Guinea Pigs were, in comparison with our Peruvian ones, more hairy and very thin but I thought the Lady in the shop could skin them for me and prepare them ready to take home.
With the help of my dictionary I asked her:
Please, I would like to have two guinea pigs, those.. the fattest ones.
She replied: Do you have a home for them?
I replied: Home? No, I need them just for today,could you clean them for me?
Clean? She replied. „They don’t need to clean just maybe comb them.
This is when I thought that my dictionary was not helping me properly, so I tried to find alternative words and said:
„I would like 2 guinea pigs, without hair, without the insides very clean ready for cooking“
Those were the last words that she heard and I don’t know what happened but her face start to transform and get very red like a tomato and she started to scream a lot of words I did not understand, took me by the arm and pushed me out firmly out of the shop.
You can imagine how disappointed I was. Why did she not want to sale the guinea pigs to me ? If they were on sale for the Czechs why didn’t she want to sell them to me. Discrimination !
Instead, rather sadly, I decided to make chicken with rice for tea even though all my energie to make a fantastic dinner was destroyed by an inconsiderate Czech Lady.
Within the next few months I realised that in Europe they treat guinea pigs like a pet and not for food, and the idea to eat them is like eating a dog or a cat. When I tell this story to my Czech friends I can see their faces completely disgusted with the idea.
I also realised that the shop I went to that memorable was a ZOO-shop. It now has a huge sign outside and a note in bold capital letters: „We sell animals as pets, any kind of abuse of agression to them will be announced to the relevant authorities.“
Anyway Czech guinea pigs are hairy and thin. I teach my children, as good Peruvian kids that guinea pig is not a pet for us but a farm animal for food, and the idea to have a guinea pig like a pet is like having a chicken or hens, and as my granny Inda says: „Never play with the food“.
Note: „papita a la huancaina“ and „lomito saltado“ are typical peruvian dishes.
Translated from Lis Fajardo blog www.nustadelperu.com
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