Llama meat in La Paz’s tourist district, June 2010

This is, in part, a shameless plug for Helen Haines and my upcoming edited volume Adventures in Eating: Anthropological Experiences in Dining from Around the World. In it, anthropoloigists discuss frankly what it’s like to be offered unfamiliar foods and how we can turn that discomfort into methodologically useful data.  The book is aimed at interested foodies, undergraduate anthropology students, and those interested in field methods and the anthropology of food.

My own chapter in this volume focuses on chuño, a popular Andean preparation of potatoes that involves freeze-drying them.  As a foil to this example, I chose my old favorite, llama meat (the subject of my B.A. thesis and an article).  The over-arching question is: Why is llama meat offered at tourist restaurants, while the far more commonly consumed chuño generally is not?

Asado de llama with French fries, top and center. Yum!!

Llamas are native to the pre-Columbian Andes, were bred largely for their meat (they were one of the few domesticated meat sources in the pre-Columbian Andes, along with guinea pig — the subject of another chapter in the Adventures volume), and continue to be raised and consumed.  And yes, both llama and guinea pig are delicious.

Fillet of Llama is the first item on this menu board.

I continue to be fascinated by the fact that llama meat is so prominent in La Paz’s touristic areas, where restaurants offer it (often in English) to foreign diners, while llama is conspicuously absent in restaurants in most of the rest of the city (with a few exceptions).

Even touristic food marked as "ethnic" (here: Thai) may include the Andean llama.

To learn more, you will of course have to read the book (or wait, in vain, for the movie to come out).

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