When humans were migrating around the world a few million years ago, they found only two domesticate-able animals in Peru. One, the llama (and llama-esque creatures) and two, the guinea pig (cuy in Spanish). Llamas apparently taste like shit. That leaves cuy to eat. Mom, thanks for hating animals and never getting me a guinea pig for a pet. For that, I am grateful for two reasons: 1) they’re stupid pets and 2) it made watching their slaughter and then sucking delicious meat off their bones doable.
I got word yesterday that today was cuy-killing time. I asked my dad if I could participate and I think he thought watching a gringa watch cuy-killing was as novel and I thought the whole thing was too. We were on the same page. Awesome. I found it hard to sleep. But not that hard for there is not much happening in the campo on a Saturday night. I tucked in around 8pm with two layers of everything except pants because I peed all over one pair on accident. I’ve decided the bucket, after exploring so many other options, is, in fact, the best method. Anyway, I manage to fall asleep by watching Dexter for the millionth time (I only have that show on my computer) and counting cuy jump over a fence or whatever.
And by the way, I think they call them cuy because that’s exactly the sound they make. However, when they’re chilling in their ‘death bag’, they’re surprisingly quiet. Pensive little fellows. I sit on a tiny chair in my kitchen with my mom. There’s a little bowl between us and a bag of five cuy beside her. She pulls one out of the death bag, holding it around the neck. You can see the two little rodent teeth and a furry belly. It doesn’t make a noise. I watch intensely as she drags the knife- well actually it’s the dullest knife on the planet so I’m going to use the verb to saw- saws the knife across the throat and quickly bends the gullet over the bowl and bleeds it out. I’ve never seen an animal slaughtered before. My heart is racing but I’m not grossed out. I’m looking at it like a scientist. I’m wondering how many milliliters of blood run through a cuy. It can’t be much. We’re saving it to cook up. Then, the lifeless American pet gets tossed aside and the ritual happens to cuy number two.
After two are killed and drained, we put them in a plastic bowl and pour boiling water over them and beat their little bodies a bit. This helps get the fur loose to pull off. Then I held one up by the back feet and started peeling fur off the creature. If you’re into picking zits, dry skin off feet and/or removing wallpaper, you’d be into this. It was fun- but you had to make sure you get all the fur from the ears and around the eyes off which was challenging. As my mom and I were working on numbers 3 and 4, my little sister picked one naked cuy corpse and started making it dance and sing a song as a really morbid puppet. Its head was bobbing back and forth since it was really only attached by the nape of the neck. It’s hard to peel skin and fur off when you’re laughing hysterically. My little sister, who is six, is awesome for so many reasons. This is just one of them. When she’s done playing with our lunch, she took off and mom had to ask, “Sarita, do you need to wash your hands? Is there cuy blood on them?” And of course there was. I was trying to think of any time in my childhood my mom had to ask me that. Nope. Nunca.
Then mom roasted them over the fire on the stove to get the remaining fur off. This scorches the skin. Now they don’t look like potential pets anymore. They’re crispy, naked rodents. Next, we take them to the only working sink in Chuyas, next to the latrine. There, I watch my mom gut them. She’s careful to keep the intestines aside to wash out and cook up later. We only throw away the alfalfa not swallowed in their mouths and these little sacs of something orange-ish. I’m not sure if all mammals have them or not. The dog ate them. After this part, I realized I really had to get some Spanish work done. I retired to the house.
When I was retrieved for lunch, the little legs and ribs were all cooked up. There was an additional bowl of guts all cooked up. Liver from a cuy tastes way better than liver from a chicken. I think it’s just because it’s smaller and there’s a higher ratio of surface area that touched oil in the pan to weird liver texture. The small intestines fried up like little delicious tubes of iron. I had a side of cuy for lunch with this spicy red sauce. Those little fuckers don’t have much meat on them, but goddamn they sure are tastey. The skin’s really thick and actually hard to bite through with human teeth, but the juicy meat around the spine and ribs was sooo good. I yanked at the little scorched feet until the socket at the hip broke and I could excavate the thigh meat. Mmmmm. I never would have thought a year ago I would be saying, “Hey mama, can you hook me up with some more fried intestine cuy tubelettes?