Giving credit to 'Peru's Goddesses of Food'

Nico Vera

Recent news suggest that the food industry is ignoring the accomplishments of women chefs, causing one food writer to praise the cooks who have inspired him the most, the women of Peru.

Giving credit to 'Peru's Goddesses of Food'

Photo: APEGA – Mistura

If you follow news in the food world, then you are likely up to date on all the controversy surrounding the recent article by Time on the Gods of Food — it published a list of people recognized for their influence on food today, and of all the chefs who made the list, not a single one was female. To make matters worse, the editor tried to explain the reasoning behind this in an interview with Eater.

In response, Grub Street came up with their Goddesses of Food list, 10 world class chefs who are women, and the LA Times wrote a piece on California’s female chefs. All this made me reflect on the role of women in Peruvian cuisine. Does Peru have its own Goddesses of Food? And if so, who are they?

To answer that, I started by looking at my culinary heroes. I have a profound admiration for the work being done by chefs such as Gastón Acurio, Javier Wong, Virgilio Martinez, Pedro Schiaffano, and Martin Morales. Not because they are male, or because Astrid & Gastón restaurant has been listed as the best restaurant in Latin America and Lima London received a Michelin Star, but because these chefs are true ambassadors for Peruvian cuisine, traveling the globe to share Peru’s culinary history and its dishes with the world.

But my culinary heroes also include women such as Teresa Izquierdo, who is known as the mother of Peruvian cuisine, or Grimanesa Vargas, who makes the best anticuchos I have ever tasted and which were praised in Time magazine’s list of 24 of the world’s best kept secrets. I’ve also been inspired by the award winning book by Sandra Plevisani on Peruvian desserts, not just for the recipes but also because of her research on the history of Peruvian cuisine during the Viceroyalty — a topic which I am very passionate about.

Are these women chefs Peru’s Goddesses of Food? Yes. But the list is really much more extensive and impossibly large. Why? Because it would have to include every woman in Peru who has ever cooked for her family, grown crops in the Andes, opened their own food stand, or sold food at a local market. That list would have to start with my mom and my grandmothers — the three women who are responsible for my profound love of Peruvian cuisine and who inspired me to become a chef. Yes, that list starts with them.

One of the places where this list grows is at the food festival Mistura. Here, APEGA, the Peruvian gastronomical society, awards the Teresa Izquierdo prize to women chefs. You read correctly. Women chefs receive an award named after the mother of Peruvian cuisine. And this year, the Teresa Izquierdo 2013 award was given to three cevicheras — three women recognized for cooking ceviche in the markets and streets of Lima. And, this matters more than a Michelin Star because it shows the world that Peru truly pays homage to its Goddesses of Food.

Born in Peru and based in San Francisco, California, Nico Vera is the founder, food writer, and chef for Pisco Trail, where he specializes in Peruvian cuisine and Pisco mixology.

Pisco Trail’s mission is to promote Peruvian food and culture through pop-ups, dinners, classes, and events that are a gastronomical tour of Peru’s cuisine and its unique culinary history. In this blog, you will find some of his favorite recipes that are a result of the 500 year fusion of Inca, Spanish, African, Chinese, and Japanese cultures

Follow Nico on Facebook and visit his site to read more of his work.

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