Sunday, October 26, 2014

Airline tickets have been purchased for December.  We'll be spending our first Christmas in Peru as a family, and Liz and I will be having our first Christmas there since 1987 and our first New Year's Eve there since 1991.  Besides, it's been several years since either of the kids have been there.

We're all really looking forward to it!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Blue Moon Restaurant

On one of my last days in Lima last August, I went to the Blue Moon restaurant in Lince. 

The Blue Moon has been there for decades.  Up until the late 1980s the building next to it was the location of the Ambassador cinema.  It was there that I saw Star Wars back in 1977.

As for the Blue Moon itself, it has long been a family favorite.   Liz and I ate there on Valentine's Day in 1988, and Mama Pali always enjoyed being treated to a meal there.




The restaurant used to be a somewhat upscale restaurant for its environs and limeno budgets.  Consequently, despite the quality of the food and environment, it had severe drop in clientele in the economic crises of the 1980s and the 1990s' "Fujishock".   The restaurant was probably kept afloat by cash infusions by its owner(s), and it was even rumored to have been used as a money-laundering front.  Who knows?

In any case, in the 1990s, the Blue Moon bowed to the economic circumstances and to the changing offerings in the Lima restaurant scene, and changing eating preferences among limenos, and shifted from an a la carte restaurant, to one specializing in a lunch buffet. And what a buffet!




The emphasis is a bit different on different days, with some being heavier on the pastas, or on meat dishes, or on seafood preparations.   But there are always a selection of salumi made with such meats as ostrich, wild boar, venison, bison, etc, and dishes prepared with pheasant, rabbit, boar, alpaca, or vizcacha.   These can be preceded, followed, or mixed, as one prefers, with a number of seafood dishes and appetizers,  a multitude of cheeses and pickles, salads, and desserts.

On of the drawbacks of the arrangement is that to keep the number of settings as high as possible after making room for the buffet, they made an already cozy space even more crowded.  But it is not so tight as to be uncomfortable and there are usually enough tables open that parties can spread out and not feel that they're bumping elbows with their neighbors.



Now, quite apart from the great food, the Blue Moon's true calling card may be said to be the awe-inspiring bottle collection displayed along its walls.   The original owner was an avid collector of distinctive and classic bottles, and the practice has been continued.

There are, at last count, an amazing 20,000 soda and liquor bottles displayed in the restaurant.  Bear in mind, however, that that is only the collection on display.

There are many thousands of other bottles of wines and spirits which are on offer to customers and which are displayed on and behind the bar (seen in the photo above, at right), in racks along the ceiling, and crammed into almost every nook and cranny of the place.


It must be a terrifying place to spend an earthquake.




Blue Moon
Jr. Pumacahua 2520
Lince - Lima - Peru
http://restaurantebluemoon.com

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Of martyrs and popular memory


As we here, in the United States, are now soul searching in the aftermath of the civil unrest and heavy-handed police response in Ferguson, Missouri, I am reminded of an encounter I had recently in Ayacucho and what it revealed to me regarding a set of events that took place in Ayacucho in 1969.

In Huamanga -i.e. the city of Ayacucho-  four students were shot dead by the Sinchis -the police's specialized counterinsurgency battalion- during protests.  In nearby Huanta the toll was higher.

Here is what I wrote about them in my university thesis:

"In January, 1969, the military government had passed Supreme Decree 006 which restricted access to free public education by retroactively instituting a 100 sol  monthly tuition of all students who failed a course the previous year.  Naturally, this measure affected the poor far more than the rich as it was already an economic burden for many families to spare the children long enough for them to attend school, and the very conditions imposed by poverty  made it far more likely that they would fail a course.    Not surprisingly, D.S. 006 proved very unpopular and provoked a four-month-long series of protests in Huamanga and Huanta.   In Huamanga the protests were primarily led by the [Communist Party's local committee] through the Frente de Defensa del Pueblo de Ayacucho (Front for the Defense of the People of Ayacucho, FDPA) and the FER [Revolutionary Student Front].   In Huanta, where the degree of organization was lesser, the protests were more spontaneous and also more violent.   At least 18 people lost their lives and many more were wounded during street battles with police in both cities."

The events are memorialized in a popular song, "Flor de Retama", composed by the late Ricardo Dolorier.   Among the lyrics are the lines

Ay! Come all to see.
By the plaza of Huanta
the Sinchis are coming in.
They're going to kill students,
Huantinos at heart


.

Although the military tried to suppress it, the people's memory persisted and in 1974 the Front for the Defense of the People of Ayacucho placed plaques at the spots where each of the four students were murdered.

When I was in Ayacucho in July, attending a colloquium on the role of women in armed conflict and pacification in Peru from 1961 onward, I met a gentleman who had been a student at the time of the protests and continued to be involved in the local movement for human rights.   

He told me about the plaques, which to my surprise had been completely unknown to me.

One of them had been placed on the front of a building that was then torn down and the plaque lost.  This gentleman had managed to locate it after several years of searching and the owners of the new building were persuaded to allow it to again be placed at the spot.  I neglected to note the location of it, and of one other, but I did remember that one was located at the end of Jiron Tres Mascaras, near the "new bridge" over the Alameda River, which runs through town The fourth plaque was, to my surprise, one I had walked past without noticing on many occasions when passing through the archway near the market, on Jiron 28 de Julio.

On my last afternoon in Ayacucho, I made a sort pilgrimage to that spot, and for the first time beheld what had been so often bypassed by me: the plaque, placed by the people of Ayacucho, in memory of one whom they regarded as a martyr in their struggle for social justice - young Eulogio Yaranga Saune, killed on that spot on the 21st of June of 1969, while defending the right of the people to a free public education.



Monday, July 28, 2014

Musical Evenings in Barranco

After starting our evening last Wednesday at the Barranco Beer Company, Jacho, Diego and I, headed around the block to the La Noche cultural center to take in an evening of Urban Singer-Songwriters.



We had such a good time that we returned the next evening to catch a one-man show by Daniel F.


Daniel F (ne Daniel Augusto Valdivia Fernandez) is a singer, composer, and poet (though he rejects that label because, he says, poetry is something higher that what he does), who's been instrumental in the Lima punk/rock scene particularly, and in Peru generally, ever since the he was the frontman for Leuzemia, a seminal Lima band.


While in Leuzemia he wrote songs such as Al colegio no voy mas (I ain't going back to school), Asesino de la ilusion (Killer of hope),  and El hombre que no podia dejar de masturbarse (The man who couldn't stop masturbating) which became well-loved classics.

On Thursday he performed all of those, as well as other older pieces and newer compositions.   The crowd, generally, seemed to know the songs and often sang along during the choruses.

As for me, it was my first time seeing Daniel F on stage and I rather enjoyed it even though I could sing along like 'most everyone else seemed to.


Craft Beer in Barranco


 On Wednesday Jacho and I returned, accompanied this time by Diego, to a spot that we had earlier checked out with Liz while she was still here: the Barranco Beer Company.



Located in downtown Barranco, a half a block from the plaza and the "boulevard" containing the bulk of dance clubs, the Barranco Beer Company was started judging from the press reports I've seen, by a trio of enterprising friends by the members of "a family with a passion for beer". A couple of them, or perhaps all three more several, had spent time abroad and been exposed to the growing craft beer scene in the US and Europe.


They somehow raised the capital and put in a set of (60 barrel?) stainless steel conical fermenters which are visible to visitors at the back of the establishment through  a plate glass divider, while the brew kettles are visible behind the bar itself.


The Barranco Beer Company is, as far as I can tell, the second brew-on-premised beer pub in Lima - after the Cerverceria De Tomas (aka Mi Cebi-Chela) in San Borja.

From L to R: Fifti Lager, Bulls Ay, Weiss Presidente

Their bill does lack a heftier, toastier beer like a porter or stout, and they do do some odd stuff - like combining beer with soda- which is unfortunate because their beer is actually quite good on its own merits, with the "Weiss Presidente" and the "Bulls Ay" being perhaps their best offerings.

Even with the beer being relatively expensive compared to what a similar serving of the mass-produced beers cost, the place is a hit and did not lack for business either night that we were there.

A pitcher of Weiss Presidente
I'd certainly keep coming back just for that weiss!



Barranco Beer Company
Avenida Grau 308
Barranco - Lima - Peru
www.facebook.com/BarrancoBeerCompany

Friday, July 25, 2014

Lunch in Chinatown


On Wednesday I was hankering to get out for a bit and for some dim sum, so Diego and I headed to Chinatown, even though it was quite wet and drizzly out.


We went shopping for some large soup bowls in the shops near the old Central Market and headed to a Chinese restaurant and tea room that I knew about on Calle Capon.


It was Diego's first exposure to dim sum, and he said he liked it, although he is not  a big fan of chifa food beyond the classic fried rice and won ton soup lunch combo.  However we were both very impressed with a beef and wheat noodle soup that we ordered to help combat the chill of a very gray and drizzly day.

The flavour was deep and rich, and warmed by a generous addition of star anise, and the meat itself was super tender, even the parts with nerves and tendons.



I've been trying to find out more about it or something similar, but with the old-style (pre-Pinyin) transliteration into Spanish that is used here it is turning out to be somewhat of a lost cause.