While such fine San Francisco restaurants such as Fresca serve up Peruvian food that is muy authentico and also muy delicioso, I am doing all I can to stay away from Peruvian food here in Peru.
Arriving last week from Lima to Cusco required some acclimatization; for a person who has lived her whole life either at or below sea level, suddenly being at 3300 meters was a shock to the system. I did my best, hiking through Inca ruins and bartering for hairy alpaca jumpers in the marketplace, to play the part of the open-minded tourist.
However, when the tour guide I hired off the street took me to a mud hut in a tiny Quechua village for a really "authentic" Peruvian experience, I should have said no to the food. I tried a bite of ch´uño, which is a freeze-dried Andean potato. To be exact, the little brown potatoes are harvested and left in a cold field to rot. Once they have rotted, they are stomped on by the locals´feet (which are not pretty as nobody wears socks, EVER, no matter how cold it gets in the Andes). After being stomped flat and inside-out by cracked feet, they are left in the field again to freeze. Once "preserved" like this, the potatoes will keep in a mud attic for years. Wonder of wonders.
So I tasted the potato, which hadn´t had anything done to it except for being thrown into a bowl with some white rice. It tasted exactly like you think a rotten potato that has been stomped on by filthy feet and then been left to freeze in a field would taste: completely disgusting. I fed the rest of mine to a dog when no-one was looking, but the two polite bites I tood were enough to give me a raging bacterial infection. I languished for a couple of days with a resting heart rate of 170 and extremely low blood pressure, but when my fever reached 40 degrees (celsius), the kind woman at the hostal called a doctor who came to my bedside and immediately gave me a shot. He prescribed a ton of medication including a course of antibiotics that I´m sure weren´t approved by the FDA but made me completely better right away.
So much better, in fact, that I was able to leave for my 4-day trek to Macchu Pichu the next morning, although when on the second morning we were invited into a Quechua hut to see how people in the Andes have always lived, I politely declined the bit of boiled potato that was offered to me.