Sunday, October 15, 2017

Peruvian Pachamanca Feast in Ollantaytambo: Farm To Earth To Table

Imagine knobby Peruvian potatoes and slabs of bone-in meat tossed in Andean herbs, thrown directly between scalding granite stones to cook underground.  Pachamanca (rough translation: "Earth oven") is a traditional style of cooking mainly done as a backyard-barbecue-type format in Peru where the only "kitchen" tools involved are shovels and maybe an occasion pair of tongs.  It is not commonly seen outside of people's homes, and it isn't really something that can be fully experienced at a restaurant or anywhere too urban.  Whenever we mentioned the word pachamanca to any of our local guides, they would get this dreamy look on their faces and tell us that if there was a way we could eat this, we must.

Luckily, I found out about El Albergue ("the refuge"), where pachamanca feasts plus a tour of their farm occur a few times a day and can be booked in advance.  El Albergue was built back in 1925 as a small lodge and restaurant connected to the Ollantaytambo train station.  Ollantaytambo (what a mouthful of a name!) is a village in the Sacred Valley of south Peru, set on the Urubamba River, about two hours outside the city of Cusco.  We already had plans to stay in the Sacred Valley after our trek to Machu Picchu, so it worked out well with our travel plans.  Anyway, we were looking forward to learning about this unique way of preparing food and to partake in a legit farm-to-table meal, but we had no idea of what an intimate and soul-enriching experience it was going to be.