Friday, September 20, 2013

Harvest festival in Peru: Huatia

Buenas tardes, dear readers.
So, who likes Thanksgiving?? It's one of my favorite holidays because it's all about food! In it's tradition, it's really about celebrating a harvest. It's fascinating to me to learn that most cultures around the world have a similar harvest festivals. For example, there's Sukkoh in Judaism (celebrated with fruit), the Yam Festival from Africa, Harvest Moon Festival from Korea, and lots lots more. 

In Peru, the harvest festival is called Huatia [wat-iya]. Living here for the past nearly 2 years I've been able to celebrate this twice! I love this tradition because first of all it's not about buying things or supporting the commercialization of holidays (*cough* Valentine's Day, Christmas *cough*). It's a natural celebration for the food that has been grown from the Earth. So this feels very organic and something that has been meaningful for thousands of years. And for this reason, it's a holiday for even people who live in poor areas or out in the country-side. That's actually where it comes from. 

So in the mountains of Peru, potatoes are one of the highest produced crops. During the months of May-July, Andean people celebrate the potato harvest. Huatia isn't just about harvesting the potatoes, it's about creating a natural oven to cook them. Over the past nearly two years living in Peru I was lucky enough to celebrate this twice. So below I'll be showing what the process is like. Since I was working at an afterschool program out in the countryside, we did this with the kids. They actually knew more about how to do it than most of the adults. 

First step was to collect some dried dirt clods. Then we started building them up in a U-shape.
The boys also showed off their building skills - very impressive!
And the girls got right in there too!

Next we lit the fire. It burned until the dirt clods were black. 

The black clods means that the fire it is hot enough to add potatoes and beans. Some people also cook meats, but it needs to be wrapped up.

Then it's time to collapse the hot dirt clods.

By burying this with loose dirt, the pile creates a hot insulated oven. All the holes with smoke coming out were covered.

During the cooking process you can take a break on the monkey bars for awhile :)

After about an hour, the food should be cooked. You have to be careful when finding the potatoes and beans in that hot pile! It's literally like 'hot potato'!
Keep undigging until the very last ones are out. 

Then it's time to eat! Everyone gets a few potatoes and can eat it with some different sauces. No washing, just peel off the dirt-y skin and enjoy! Now that's a natural flavor :)

So what do you think of this? Do you have any special food traditions?

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