Number of People with Nothing Better to Do

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fiesta del Fiesta del Camarón (Crawfish Festival)

Hunting camarones with the Germans

Waiting for the food to come out with Nano and his mom

Queen of the Camarón, contestants and judges
OK. I think you're starting to see a trend. Peruvians love their fiestas. There are fiestas for virgins, saints, town anniversaries, local food, etc. A couple of weeks ago Huaraco, a little town in my district, hosted the Fiesta del Camarón (Crawfish Festival). Crawfish Festival??!! Visions of backyard crawfish boils in Houston danced in my head. You can bet your sweet poto (ass) I wasn't going to miss this one.

So off I went to Huaraco with 2 German archaeologists, a German museum intern and Conejo, the mayoral candidate in my district who came in 5th. On the way up the quebrada to Huaraco, we stopped and looked at some petroglyphs from the Paracas Culture, an ancient civilization that pre-dated the Nazcas. There, foxes, families, and chiefs wearing ceremonial head dresses were etched in stone, no doubt by some bored, punk-ass, Paracas culture teenager wearing black eye-liner. Although the archaeologists couldn't verify this, I'm sure the etchings read "I hate you Dad!"

We arrived at Huaraco around 10:30 in the morning. The night before the town the crowned the new Miss Camarón and there was a band and dancing and drinking on the little concrete losa where they play futbol. When we arrived half the town was still sleeping or were awake but pretty bleary eyed. The other half was preparing platos tipicos (typical dishes) de camarón. A couple of older men were sitting near the losa unable to make it home, or locked out of their homes, from the night's festivities. They smelled pretty ripe.

We went down to the river to catch us some camarones. You catch a camarón by wading in the slower moving parts of the river, sticking your hands under rocks and grabbing the little suckers. If one of the camarones goes darting out and you're not a seasoned Peruvian veteran, you stumble and slosh around awkwardly trying to catch it and pretty much look like clod. After catching maybe a kilo and a half of camarones, we sat by the river and admired our haul as the veterans agilely waded by with mesh bags full of the little critters.

We left the river and headed back to town where I ran into a couple of friends from town. We drank beer and bullshitted and laughed while waiting for the food to come out. Periodically, a lady would bring out a big tray of food and set it on a table to sell. When the chicharrón de camarón (fried crawfish) came out, everyone bum-rushed the table and started hollering and arguing about who had paid and who was next. I was secretely half hoping to witness a fight over crawfish.

Just as we were about to leave, the townsfolk asked me if I wanted to be a judge in a food contest. If there's one skill I've honed as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Peru, it's judging food competitions and beauty pageants. Here was a chance to try all the dishes without having to pay so I eagerly accepted. Some of the dishes included - chaufa de camarón (crawfish fried rice), estofado de camarón (crawfish stew), causa de camarón (mashed potatoes layered with a mayonnaise-based crawfish salad), and chicharrón de camarón (fried crawfish). My favorite was the causa but the big winner by a landslide was the chicharrón.

Although the Fiesta del Camarón was a big hit, it really didn't stack up to a crawfish boil on a lazy Sunday afternoon at the West Alabama Ice House in Houston with newspaper-lined picnic benches, spicy crawfish, corn and potatoes, and a nice cold can of beer.

Idea for secondary project - crawfish boils. Any of you coon-asses out there have a good recipe?