Carnival is another festive Peruvian event. It is a street party that lasts from three days to one week. It occurs right before Lent, the 40-day period before Easter. For religious reasons, many Peruvians give up meat during Lent, so as one last time to indulge before fasting, Peruvians hold Carnival, with parades, bands, floats, dances, and lots of special foods, espe- cially meat. In fact the root of the Spanish word “Carni- val” is carne, meaning meat.
Puchero, a rich and filling stew loaded with meat, is a Carnival favorite. Carnival participants look forward to the last day of Carnival, known as Fat Tuesday, because that is the day street vendors prepare this popular dish. Puchero contains many meats including pork, chicken, beef heart, lamb’s head, and sausage.
The meat is slowly cooked in water and spices. When it is tender, it is removed from the pot, and potatoes, yuca, and corn are added. Whole peaches, rice, chickpeas, and cabbage are cooked in separate pots.
Puchero is served on a platter with each ingredient in a traditional spot. The meat is in the middle. The rice mixed with the chickpeas top the meat. The corn, the yuca and potatoes, and the peaches surround it. The whole thing is topped with cabbage leaves and served with salsa and a bowl of the stewing liquid. The meat and vegetables taste buttery soft, but not mushy. And, the different flavors sweet, earthy, meaty, and starchy blend together so that no one flavor overwhelms the others. The taste, says Peruvian food writer Rosario Olivas Weston, is “delicious and comforting.”