Ecuador via Jackson Heights, Queens: Eating Laura’s Childhood Pet
LAURA: Around this time 28 years ago, I received a fluffy little guinea pig in my Easter basket. Shortly thereafter, our St. Bernard Dutchess ate it, and I’ve been haunted by the memory ever since. For those who slept through Psychology 101 or aren’t familiar with the life and career path of Jenna Jameson, victims of childhood trauma often unconsciously recreate their traumatic experiences in adulthood. Which is how, I suppose on some level, we ended up eating guinea pig right around Easter time at El Pequeno in Queens.
ADAM: Known as “Cuy” in South America, guinea pigs are an important source of protein in several countries across the Andes Mountains, where cows and swine dare not roam. Families feed the little buggers vegetable scraps and raise them kind of like cattle. (Tiny, tiny cattle.) And unlike bothersome cows that swamp families with more meat then they can quickly consume after slaughter, guinea pigs are thoughtful enough to gird their bones with nothing but the perfect serving size.
LAURA: When Ecuadorians aren’t munching on guinea pigs, they’re using them to diagnose and treat diseases. Shamans use the critter-of-all-trades in healing rituals, a process that involves rubbing the furball over a patient’s body and then slicing it open to “read” its insides, which tells the hippie healer what’s wrong with the patient—not the least of which is the fact that someone is seeking medical advice from a rodent.
ADAM: When our personal guinea meal arrived, its crispy, snarling face was accompanied by a platter piled with fava beans, a ball of fried mashed potatoes, and Ecuadorian corn (both fried and steamed). Although they basically tasted like the corn we’re used to (just maybe a bit blander and mealier), the Ecuadorian corn kernels were super-huge, so obviously we used them to make uproarious beaver impressions.
LAURA: We chowed on our guinea pig’s flesh, ears and brains, a full-body feast indistinguishable from a sewer rat roasted over a garbage fire (we assume). To see us demolish the little guy (and see our ugly taste faces), watch the video above!
El Pequeno Coffee Shop
86-10 Roosevelt Ave (Jackson Heights, Queens)
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