I had an interesting experience today. My yoga instructor and his wife invited me to spend the day with them and their kids. We went on a lovely hike in Otuzco, about twenty minutes outside of Cajamarca where there are beautiful ruins, a river and a couple of farms, and then back to their house for lunch. They are vegetarians. While I have nothing but profound respect for anyone’s dietary preferences and choices, vegetarianism is always problematic given my own diet choices. Case in point: on the menu – whole wheat soup, peppers stuffed with rice, sweet potatoes, corn cobs and fruit, homemade mango ice-cream and quinoa-oatmeal cookies for dessert. A seemingly perfectly healthy lunch, but the total absence of fat or protein and the abundance of carb-dense vegetables and grains took me aback. In fact, 100% of the food on the plate was carbs, and what’s more, I completely forgot that this is what almost all of my meals used to look like before. Aside from the wheat soup and cookies, I ate everything else. I steer clear of gluten as a non-negotiable principle because even very small amounts can prevent your gut lining from repairing and keep your symptoms going. But on the other hand, I’m at a place where I feel that my digestive health is good and I have a pretty squeaky clean paleo lifestyle the rest of the time that I don’t need to freak out about the occasional small portion of grains, sugar or dairy as much as I used to. There are moments when it just seems senseless to reject delicious food that people have prepared for you because you follow a grain-free diet, and one carb-dense vegetarian meal with whole grains will not kill you or “screw up” everything you’ve been following. I can completely feel the effects of eating a bit of rice and milk ice-cream on my body though, which confirms that this can only be on an exceptional basis. My stomach has not been in a happy place all afternoon, rumbling, struggling and grumbling and trying to recognize how the hell all this rice got here. It’s ok, it was a delightful day, and I realized I’m almost never around children so this was a pleasant change of routine.
So Carnaval is coming up in Cajamarca, and it’s an experience like no other. It’s currently 10pm on a Sunday night and there’s a group of about 20 people outside my window playing big steel drums, clapping their hands and singing the same traditional Carnaval song over and over again. This is normal, and they will probably go on for another two or three hours. For several weeks already, groups have been gathering on the central Plaza every night with instruments to play the traditional songs of the Peruvian Carnaval. Cajamarca is the most famous city in Peru for its Carnaval festivities, with people coming from all over the country to join in the partying, including many foreigners. Carnaval is a BIG DEAL here, a tradition not to be taken lightly. For weeks in anticipation of the big holiday, people throw water balloons at each other in the streets, paint their faces, play music in the Plaza until the wee hours in the morning and of course, drink heavily. Next weekend is the official Carnaval date and I can’t even imagine what a total blast it will be. From what I’ve been told, the entire city gathers on the central Plaza which becomes packed for 3 days non-stop: people throw paint at each other, parade in the streets, drink a lot, feast in their houses with their families and don’t get a whole lot of sleep for the entire weekend. It’s going to be a cultural experience, I’m looking forward to it. But I’m also looking forward to some peace and quiet outside my window once the Holiday is over, it’s been tough getting some sleep these past weeks.
On to this recipe, this is a quick and easy chicken recipe to throw together. It tastes like French Provence, and I love the combination of honey and mustard. The marinade makes the chicken very juicy on the inside but the skin gets crispy and slightly sticky in the oven – an absolute pleasure to eat! I typically serve this with a side of stir-fried vegetables or a mixed salad.
Recipe: Thyme, Honey & Dijon Glazed Chicken Drumsticks
8 chicken drumsticks
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp raw honey
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp dried thyme + more to sprinkle over the chicken
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C).
2. Combine Dijon mustard, olive oil, honey, thyme, minced garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Coat the drumsticks with the marinade, rubbing some of the marinade under the skin so the meat is well flavored. Sprinkle some dried thyme over the chicken and add a few cracks of pepper.
3. Transfer the drumsticks to a baking dish large enough so they don’t touch. Bake for 45 minutes until the skin is crispy on the exterior and a meat thermometer reads 170°F.
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