I know what you’re thinking. All this guy does is go to festivals - doesn’t he every work?? Let me assure you that drinking beer and eating big-ass crawfish ceviche IS work! Perhaps the toughest job I’ve ever loved. I’ll tell you about some of the projects I’m working on later. Now, let’s talk about camarones, or crawfish.
My town of Big River is famous for its camarones. Right now we are at the height of camarón season so let’s have a big party to celebrate. Last night there was a concert in the sports complex (a patch of walled in concrete where folks play fulbito and volleyball). A cumbia group called Candela played. The band is headed by the lesser known brother of Los Hermanos Yaipen, a famous Peruvian cumbia brother band (seems like there are a ton of brother acts here). I met up with some buddies and we hung out, drank this lousy beer called Franca and enjoyed the show. Usually these bands have a couple of scantily clad girls dancing but, alas, this one did not.
Today was the main day. People started milling round the plaza at noonish where they held a camarón-themed food contest. There was papa relleno de camarón (baked mashed potato filled with camarón), a camarón salad with a delicious camarón cream sauce, garbanzos and camarones, fried camarón, escabeche de camarón (camarones with cooked onions in a yellow sauce), ceviche de camarón, etc. The biggest disappointment of the day (weekend) was I wasn’t invited to be a judge where you get to eat everything. Turned out to be OK though, because I would have had to have worn a suit and tie and it’s already hot out. I did get to taste the various dishes though so don’t feel bad for me.
While the judges were tallying the votes (my host mom won by the way with the a camarón salad – she won a coffee maker but doesn’t drink coffee), there were death-defying dune buggy races. The race started in the Plaza de Armas, crossed the Panamerican Highway, down a dirt road out into the country, and back again roaring through the middle of the plaza. I guess I can’t really say death-defying at this point because one of the dune buggies flipped, wound up in an irrigation ditch and one of the participants had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. Frankly I’m surprised there weren’t more people hurt. They didn’t do any kind of crowd control so a kid escaping the grasp of his mother could have darted out into the street and got tagged, or a buggy could have been nailed by a trailer barreling down the highway.
After the dune buggy races they had VW Bug races. Herbie the Lovebug didn’t make it but these cars were pretty souped up and had their sponsors painted on the side of them in latex house paint or printed on a sheet of paper taped in their window. The bug sponsored by Generade, a cheap knock off of Gatorade, won. I suppose if Tiger Woods is hurting for sponsors these days he could give Generade a call.
After came the eating. They had ceviche de camarón, causa de camarón (kind of a mashed potato sandwich filled with camarón that you eat with a fork), camarón soup, and fried camarón. I had the ceviche and I swear to you that one of the camarones was the size of a small lobster (which I guess it kind of what is - the point is it was the biggest camaron I've ever seen). People were of course throwing back beer and pisco but I was walking wounded from the night before so I didn’t partake.
Next festival you ask? Well, the Garbanzo Festival is next weekend in Santa Cruz and another nearby town’s festival is the week after so my dance cards pretty full. Thanks for asking though.